"He is a serial killer who was basically hiding in plain sight," prosecutor Beth Silverman told the jury

By Christine Pelisek
Updated May 03, 2016 12:30 PM
Credit: AP Pool/Nick Ut,Pool

The victims were all young vulnerable black women who lived in South Los Angeles and struggled with drug addiction. Their naked or partially clothed bodies were all dumped in the filthy neighborhood alleyways, left to rot under garbage and debris. They were shot at close range with a .25-caliber pistol, or strangled, or both.

None were found with identification, but prosecutors say the alleged killer left his mark on the dead women in the form of saliva found on their breasts.

After three months of testimony in Los Angeles Superior Court, prosecutors wrapped up their closing arguments Monday in the trial of Lonnie Franklin Jr., the alleged Grim Sleeper serial killer who prosecutors say stalked South Los Angeles for more than 20 years. Franklin is charged with the murder of 10 women and the attempted murder of another.

“He sought out and targeted these victims,” prosecutor Beth Silverman told the jury. “They were easy prey. None of them deserved to be brutally dumped like trash as if their lives had no meaning,” she said.

Silverman added, “They suffered from the same frailties and the same imperfections that all humans do, and they had the same hopes and the same dreams for their futures that we all have.”

Alleged Killing Spree Began in 1985

Franklin, a 63-year-old married father of two and former LAPD mechanic and city sanitation worker, allegedly began his killing spree with 29-year-old cocktail waitress Debra Jackson, whose decomposing body was found under a carpet in an alley near 1017 West Gage Avenue on April 10, 1985. She had been shot at close range three times in the chest. No bullets or identification were found at the scene.

The last known murder occurred on January 1, 2007, when 25-year-old Janecia Peters’s lifeless body was discovered in a dumpster at 9508 South Western Avenue. Peters had been shot in the lower back, paralyzing her from the waist down.

“She couldn’t run away,” said Silverman. “She couldn’t escape. This particular victim spent several minutes gasping for breath. It was an agonizing way to die.”

Silverman added, “She didn’t die right away so the defendant strangled her. After she was dead he folded her into the fetal position and placed her in a trash bag and sealed it with a zip tie.”

Franklin, who prosecutors say is linked to the murders through DNA and ballistics evidence, faces the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

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‘These Crimes Were About Power and Control,’ Says Prosecutor

During closing arguments, Silverman painted Franklin as an opportunistic killer who hunted for his alleged victims in the same area in which he lived and worked. The majority of his alleged victims were found within a few miles of where Franklin lived.

“He is a serial killer who was basically hiding in plain sight,” Silverman said. “He blended in. All evidence points to one person as the killer.”

Silverman said Franklin was a “sexual predator,” who allegedly killed women who “weren’t submissive enough.”

“These crimes were about power and control,” she told the jury and courtroom, which was packed with family members, reporters and law enforcement officers. “The women who grew up in South L.A. were tough: Why else does the defendant bring a loaded gun to look for women?”

Silverman continued: “It is clear the defendant got pleasure from killing these young women because that’s how they all ended up. He definitely wanted to degrade these women by dumping their bodies like trash. He got off on that too and that is why he did it over and over. It gave him gratification.”

Franklin’s defense has questioned the prosecution’s DNA and ballistics evidence.

“This is a circumstantial evidence case,” defense attorney Seymour Amster said in the beginning of his closing argument, which will conclude on Tuesday. “Each fact must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The defense will resume its closing argument Tuesday morning.