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Crime

Inside the Police Interrogation of L.A.’s ‘Grim Sleeper’ Serial Killer: ‘Talk to Us, Lonnie’

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Lonnie Franklin
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty

The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central, tells the story of serial killer Lonnie Franklin, who haunted South Los Angeles for more than two decades, killing at least 15 women. Police believe the death count is much higher, around 30.

Franklin’s victims were young black women, many of whom had drug addictions, and perhaps relatedly, these crimes went unsolved from 1984 to 2010. In 2006, PEOPLE Staff Writer Christine Pelisek broke the story of one of California’s most prolific serial killers who went unchecked for more than two decades. Two years later, in her cover story for the LA Weekly, she dubbed him the “Grim Sleeper” for his long break between murders.

The book brings out the victims as 360 degree human beings and also delves into the tenacity of those victim’s families and the detectives who worked the case. In this excerpt, LAPD detectives Paul Coulter and Dennis Kilcoyne confront Franklin at police headquarters after they have linked him to the case through familial DNA. 

“Lonnie, you will be 58 next month,” added Coulter. “You are not going to be getting out. Now is the time . . . at least us in the twilight of our careers can go back to the family members with an explanation. Don’t you think they are owed that? Wouldn’t you be owed that if someone was showing a picture of [your daughter] Crystal?”

“Yes,” responded Franklin.

“That is what they deserve,” Coulter told him. “You are done. Life as Lonnie Franklin knew it is over.”

“You have trolled Western Avenue for the last time,” said Kilcoyne.

“You think once you are locked up they are really going to care where Lonnie is?” asked Coulter. “They are going to move on with their lives, as well they should. Your own family’s lives are going to be changed tremendously after today.”

Kilcoyne decided to give an out and see if Franklin would go for it.

“I know you are a gentleman,” said Kilcoyne. “I know you have a conscience and you have a soul. And you, inside, have a problem, and that problem has caused all of these tragedies to happen, but along the way you left your mark,” said Kilcoyne. “All of these years that have gone by, finally, and probably a blessing to you, science has finally stopped what Lonnie Franklin inside can’t control. And that is what brought us to today. I know you are an intelligent man, that you have a conscience. That you have a soul inside, and I think you want to tell us. I think you want to tell these family members of these young ladies that can’t talk anymore that you are sorry and you don’t know how this happened. You have to open up and tell us. We don’t have all of the answers yet, but we are working on it. So what is the deal, Lonnie?”

“There is no deal,” said Franklin. “I don’t know any of these people. I am sorry.”

“Maybe you don’t remember their faces?” said Kilcoyne. “You picked up trash for a living in alleys, but you are dumping them like they are trash. You are disposing of these young ladies in the alley or in the trash bin, and you are piling stuff on top of them. They are trash to you. How do you get there in your brain? . . . This isn’t something that your neighbor did or your son did, or your uncle or brother-in-law. This is something you did. Talk to us, Lonnie.”

“I have nothing to say,” said Franklin. “I don’t know none of these people.”

“You think that is just going to make it go away?” asked Kilcoyne.

“I didn’t say it would make it go away,” said Lonnie. “I just have to get an attorney because I didn’t know none of these people. It is as simple as that.”

“I don’t know what else to say,” said Kilcoyne. “I guess he wants an attorney now, so . . .”

Kilcoyne informed Franklin that they would need a blood sample as well as a saliva swab from his mouth.

“Any questions?” asked Kilcoyne.

“No questions,” Lonnie told him.

Christine Pelisek

The two detectives got up, left the interview room, and rode the elevator to the tenth floor. Family members, including Diana Ware and Porter and Mary Alexander and their sons Donnell and Darin, were gathered in a conference room. They were told the news. Mary Alexander started to cry, and the others followed.

Kilcoyne was struck by the tears pouring down the faces of Darin and Donnell, two tough men who were familiar with the hardened ways of South Central. It got to him. It got to Coulter too when he gazed into the glistening eyes of the stoic Diana Ware. He took her into his arms and hugged her.

The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central (Counterpoint Press), is in bookstores now.