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Defense Says Another Serial Killer Linked to Two Attacks in Grim Sleeper Case

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AP

An attorney for the alleged Grim Sleeper serial killer suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. filed a motion last week claiming that DNA evidence found at two attacks link another serial killer to the crimes.

Franklin, a married father of two and former Los Angeles Police Department mechanic and sanitation worker for the city of Los Angeles, was charged in July 2010 with 10 murders and one attempted murder. He faces the death penalty for the alleged 23-year murder spree that began on Jan. 15, 1984, when Sharon Dismuke was discovered shot in the chest in the restroom of an abandoned gas station. Franklin was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 14 but it has been postponed again till Dec. 15.

In the motion, Franklin’s defense claims convicted killer Chester Turner is linked through DNA evidence to the attacks on alleged Grim Sleeper victims Barbara Ware and Enietra Washington. Turner, a former pizza deliveryman and one of several serial killers who preyed on young, poor black women in South Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s, is on California’s Death Row for killing 14 women, including one who was pregnant. Turner strangled his victims before he dumped their bodies mostly along freeways and alleys, within 20 blocks of his various homes and flophouses.

“DNA analysis reveals that Chester Turner must be included as a potential biological donor to the DNA found,” the motion states.

Franklin’s defense team also listed 19 other men as possible suspects in some of the attacks, including the boyfriend of one of the victims.

“The evidence reveals a high probability that a third party, or parties, committed one or more of the charged offenses as well as were the actual killer and the only individual present during the crime that had the intent to kill,” the motion states.

At a court hearing Friday, Los Angeles prosecutor Marguerite Rizzo questioned the defense expert’s methods of calculating the DNA evidence stating it defied “the correct methods of statistical analysis.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy postponed Franklin’s trial so prosecutors could have their experts analyze the evidence. Kennedy criticized Franklin’s defense for handing prosecutors close to 2,000 pages of discovery days before the trial was set to start.

“You know, you kind of put everybody in a box,” she said. “Because when you are turning material over, expert, scientific-type material in volume days before a scheduled trial that obviously require an expert’s review it’s one thing to turn over a police report or an investigator’s report. It’s another thing to turn over scientific evidence at the last second I’m not going to force the prosecution to proceed unprepared.”

Los Angeles prosecutor Beth Silverman told the judge that defense attorney Seymour Amster was “playing fast and loose and trying to ambush the people.”

A hearing is scheduled on Oct. 20 where DNA experts are expected to testify.

Most of Franklin’s alleged victims were shot with a .25-caliber pistol. Their bodies were discovered in Dumpsters and alleyways along Western Avenue in South Los Angeles.

Ware, 23, was found dead in an alley Jan. 10, 1987. She was shot once in the chest. Washington told police that a man, driving an orange-colored Pinto, picked her up one night in Nov. 1988. The man shot her in the chest, then sexually assaulted her, and took a photo of her using a Polaroid camera, before pushing her out of his car. Police later found a photograph of Washington on Franklin’s garage floor after he was arrested.

Franklin, a former corporal in the United States Army, was finally caught through familial DNA testing after his 28-year-old son, Christopher, was arrested for carrying a weapon in the summer of 2009 and had to give up a DNA swab. Once it was determined that Christopher was related to the killer, detectives followed the elder Franklin to a pizza place in Long Beach. As Franklin finished his meal, a detective who posed as a busboy collected a fork, two plastic cups, a plate and a pizza slice left by Franklin. A few days later, DNA taken from the pizza slice allegedly came back as a match to DNA found on Ware.

In May, the LAPD announced they were trying to identify 35 women who may have been killed by Franklin.

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