Every Woman's Worst Nightmare: The Grim Sleeper | Serial Killer: Lonnie Franklin Jr | Serial Killers of The 70s, 80s & 90s

(Lonnie Franklin Jr. Picture credit: ranker)

Have you ever seen eyes as haunting as those of the individual pictured above? The person who's name is Lonnie Franklin Jr, otherwise known as The Grim Sleeper, sure has sinister eyes that you can just tell have seen a lot of dark and disturbing things in his lifetime. But it's not just his eyes that are disturbing, it's everything about him, especially his hands because those are the hands that carried out the murders of numerous innocent women. 

He was known as the good guy of the neighbourhood, a nice, helpful guy who was a dab hand at fixing cars. He could get you a good deal on a fridge freezer or get you some items that had ''fallen off the back of a wagon'' for half the price of what they retailed at in the stores. Everybody seemed to know Lonnie, always stopping by to share a coffee whilst he worked on various cars. It was common knowledge that Lonnie liked to dabble in stolen vehicles but he was so good that nobody ever knew how he acquired them (nobody witnessed him actually stealing them himself). He'd been driving cars since he was a child and had a natural talent for fixing them up as well as spending some time behind bars for his illegal activities. 

For the most part, Lonnie (who was 57 years old and lived in South Central, Los Angeles with his wife and two children in their modest home) was friendly and kept himself to himself. So when the cops showed up one day in 2010, it came as a shock to the locals in one way but not in another. People assumed that his dealings in stolen vehicles had finally caught up with him but they were soon to find out the truth. Stolen vehicles was the least of Lonnie's ill doings, for unknown to the neighbours and friends that he had grown up with, who he'd shared coffee with and did the odd favour for, Lonnie was actually a cold blooded serial killer who had been terrorizing their community for decades. 

He was the ultimate snake in the grass and nobody in the community knew, they knew he was no angel but a killer? they couldn't believe it! What was even more disturbing about this case was how the cops dealt with the investigation, it was utterly appalling. Lonnie had been on their radar for years and they knew that a killer was active on the streets murdering innocent black women but they did nothing to warn the public. The cops turned a blind eye because of the judgements about some of the lifestyles of the ladies involved, they didn't take the investigations into their deaths as seriously as they should have done. There was a clear pattern and link between all of the murders and the similarities spoke volumes even down to the weapons used but the horrible saga was allowed to continue. For someone like myself who delved more into this case for my current series, my eyes were fully opened to a lot of the mishandling and disrespect as well as full on racism that many people in the black community faced back then and sadly to the present day. Where I grew up nobody trusted the police but in South Central Los Angeles, who could blame the local community for feeling the way that they have done for such a long time, it's completely understandable when you look at everything people have been put through and how badly they have been let down time and again. 

So there was no protection for the women of South Central. Los Angeles in the 1980s (even before that and beyond) when this spate of murders were taking place and no warning. It shouldn't have been about whether somebody partook in drugs, sex work or was just travelling home from working at a grocery store, what people chose to do for a living in hard times should not have been an issue, everyone has the right to have proper police protection and fair warning if there is potential danger in their midst. 

The neighbourhood 'nice guy' Lonnie spent his life up until his arrest (with a short stint in the Army) in South Central, it was his own backyard and he was cruising the streets looking for lone female victims. He would target sex workers but not all of the victims did that line of work, some were just housewives or worked at a grocery store. He just wanted to kill women and it was clear from a young age that he had a negative attitude towards women all of his life. The way he would describe women and treat them was disgusting. He enjoyed taking photographs of women, especially sexually explicit ones and he would share them with his close friends. He frequented sex workers behind his long term wife's back and had a string of affairs. His wife claimed to have been oblivious to his hidden life and his close friends claimed that they only swapped explicit pictures of women with him but nothing more, they claimed to have no idea that Lonnie was a serial killer. 

So let's get into a bit of the background of Lonnie David Franklin Jr and how he was finally brought to justice after 25 years. He was born on the 30th of August 1952 and had a difficult childhood and struggled academically but was more talented when it came to mechanics. His father taught him to drive as a young boy and got him his first car. His relationship with his father was pretty normal but he wasn't as close with his mother. For one reason or another Lonnie began to fall of the rails and got into joyriding and stealing cars as well as fixing them up (changing number plates, wheels etc). When he was finally caught for this behaviour his father thought it would be best for him to join the army and hoped that it would get him out of this behaviour, however, Lonnie's horrific attitude towards women was beginning to show because after attempting to abduct one woman near to where he was stationed in Germany, he and his friends had managed to drag another poor girl into their vehicle for a horrendous sexual assault. 

The girl was terrified but tried to placate Lonnie by asking for his phone number in an attempt to appear interested in him. This was done in a way to make it look like she was comfortable with the horrible situation and wouldn't go to the police plus, she thought it would be a good way for the police to catch him. Lonnie did call the phone number the next day and authorities were informed. Lonnie was sent home from the army and no more was said about what he had done. Red flags from childhood and up until this moment were ignored. 

When he returned home he decided that he wanted to settle down and start a family. He met and married his wife and they soon began to build their family. Lonnie was a hard worker and had various types of employment that involved everything from cleaning to refuse collection. He also did work on the cars as well as stolen goods on the side and began seeing other women for affairs and liaisons with sex workers. He was leading a double life and is suspected to have started killing in the 1970s but his murderous timeline is often cited as from 1984 to 2007, as I always say with serial killers (especially ones like Lonnie who have managed to evade justice for so long) you never can tell exactly when they started killing and how many victims they are responsible for. 

Lonnie's method of killing would be shooting or strangulation. The women were subjected to a horrendous sexual assault and their bodies would be dumped under trash bags in alleyways. His youngest known victim was said to have been Princess Berthomieux who was just 15 years old, she was from Inglewood and her body was found on the 19th of March 2002. His oldest known victim was 35 year old Valerie McCorvey from Westmont, her body was found on the 11th of July 2003. When he was arrested he denied any connection to any of the victims and during the police interrogation when he was shown photographs of the victims who's bodies had contained some of his DNA, he pleaded ignorant and made sickening comments such as ''She's butt-ugly'' and ''she's fat''. He also laughed and appeared to be relaxed and unbothered throughout the interview but the police knew that they had the right man, DNA evidence doesn't lie. 

(Lonnie Franklin Jr's known victims. From Top left: Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Barbara Ware, Bernita Sparks, Mary Low, Lachrica Jefferson, Alicia Alexander, Princess Berthomieux, Valarie McCorvey and Janecia Peters. Picture credit: afro.com)

It had taken the police so long to finally get Lonnie Franklin Jr off of the streets. A horrible, endless nightmare for the relatives of the victims and the long suffering wait was still not over because there was several delays when it came to the case going to trial. Eventually the relatives would see their day in court where the monster who took their loved ones would have to answer for his heartless crimes. Lonnie, who now looked even more like a frail old man because so much time had passed, sat looking unbothered and still carried on mumbling that he was innocent. The relatives of the victims and one of his known survivors, Enietra Washington had their say in court and justice was finally served. Lonnie David Franklin Jr was sentenced to death and convicted of the murders of 10 women and the attempted murder of Enietra Washington. It had been a long time coming for the exhausted families, Enierta and the investigators to finally see the day that Lonnie would get what he deserved. 

(Enierta Washington. Picture credit: buzzfeednews)

Some of the victim's relatives sadly passed away before they could see justice served but those there that day believed that their loved ones where there in spirit and that there was a sense of peace. Everyone knows that there are still victims of The Grim Sleeper out there who are yet to be identified, there are some unsolved murders that he is highly suspected of and some where they believe he was the perpetrator but there is a lack of evidence. 

When the police searched his home they found 180 photographs of women which Lonnie claimed had been taken whilst some of the the women were asleep, many were explicit photographs. Some of the women were identified and some remain unknown. Enierta said that during her attack, Lonnie took a photograph of her. It seemed that he liked to take pictures of his victims as his trophy collection. To think that he was only convicted of 10 murders plus one attempted murder is quite frightening when he is believed to have killed many more women. 

Even with the women he had affairs with he'd have unsavory nicknames for them based on the shape and size of their breasts, one of the ladies was given the nickname ''Droopy Titties''. He just had no respect for women whatsoever. 

(Some of the photographs that were found in Lonnie Franklin's house. Picture credit: dailyrecord)

In a final sour note to the story, Lonnie wasn't to meet his death at the hands of the law for he was found deceased in his cell on the 28th of March 2020. He was 67 years old. For some bizarre reason, details of his death have remained withheld from the public leading some to suspect that he may have been murdered by a fellow inmate but the only details we know is that there was ''no reported trauma''. Maybe he took his own life? The mystery remains, maybe the public will be informed at some point? 

(Lonnie Franklin Jr in court. Picture credit: rollingstone)

Lonnie never showed any remorse for his victims, their families or Enietra. He also never confessed to any of the crimes he was accused and convicted of but his DNA was on the victims. The gun used in the murders was found in his house and photographs of the victims were also found. There was no question that he was The Grim Sleeper who had haunted the streets of Los Angeles for decades. 

I just want to take a moment to remember the victims and the courage of Enietra Washington who was brave enough to stand up and face Lonnie in the courtroom. RIP: Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Barbara Ware, Bemita Sparks, Mary Lowe, Lachrica Jefferson, Alicia Alexander, Princess Berthomieux, Valerie McCorvey and Janecia Peters. Also thinking of the many unidentified victims of Lonnie David Franklin Jr.

Further Reading & Sources: 

Thank you for taking the time to read my latest post in my Serial Killers of the 70s, 80s & 90s series. I hope you will join me in my next installment. 

Take care & I hope to see you on my socials in the meantime x 

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