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LA's 'Grim Sleeper' Pleads Not Guilty

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on August 25, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" for his long pauses between murders, Lonni Franklin Jr. pleaded not guilty to murdering ten women in the Los Angeles area between 1985 and 2007. Prosecutors have not decided whether they will seek the death penalty against the 57 year-old Franklin.

The Herald Sun reports that all Franklin's victims (many African American prostitutes) were killed within a few miles of his South Los Angeles home, using a small caliber weapon. Police are now looking into other unsolved cases in the area to find a potential link back to Franklin. Investigators struggled to find Franklin for so long because the changing makeup of the Los Angeles neighborhood made it difficult for police to locate witnesses and follow leads. Franklin has been working as a backyard mechanic throughout the entire duration of the murders in question.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this developing case is how the grim sleeper was ultimately caught. Franklin's son was arrested and swabbed for DNA on unrelated charges when police performed a familial DNA search, which ultimately led police to link Franklin to some of the DNA found at many of the unsolved crime scenes.

This case shows the intersection of new technologies being used to solve old crimes. Familial DNA testing has some privacy implications in that many characterize it as an unreasonable search -- a violation of the Fourth Amendment. California is a state that allows for this type of search, and the prosecutors in this case plan to base much of their argument on the DNA evidence. Over thirty family members and friends of victims attended the preliminary hearing of the grim sleeper, many leaving the court room in tears.

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