Last victim of 'Grim Sleeper' was found in trash bag inside dumpster, jurors are told

The blue dumpster was hauled by truck from a South Los Angeles alley to the Los Angeles County coroner's downtown headquarters.

It was New Year's Day 2007, and at a loading dock a team of investigators carefully tipped over the dumpster.

One of them, Sarah DeQuintana, a criminalist with the coroner's office, testified Thursday that she knelt down to remove a large black bag amid the trash and debris. A zip tie was removed and the red fingernails of a woman could be seen.

Inside the bag, discarded among the waste, was the corpse of 25-year-old Janecia Peters.

Peters is believed to be the final victim of the serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper.

Prosecutors allege that Lonnie Franklin Jr., a former Los Angeles police garage attendant, murdered Peters and others in a series of killings from 1985 to 2007. He is charged with 10 counts of murder, including that of Peters, and the attempted murder of another woman.

Franklin, 63, has pleaded not guilty.

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As DeQuintana spoke, photographs of the investigators at work at the coroner's headquarters were projected on a large screen in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom where Franklin is on trial. In the first photo, the criminalist could be seen removing the black bag from the rubbish. Other photographs showed Peters' fingernails inside the bag, then her body, first folded in the fetal position and then on a gurney.

Sarah Shields, a forensic scientist for a private DNA laboratory, testified that Franklin's DNA profile could not be excluded as a match for DNA evidence found on Peters' body.

Shields explained that because men have the same Y chromosome as their fathers that continues through the paternal line, she could not say for certain that he was the source of the DNA — but she could also not rule him out as a contributor to the genetic sample.

Forensic scientist Kelli Byrd said Franklin's DNA profile matched genetic material found on the zip tie fastened around the plastic bag in which Peters was found.

It was Peters' slaying that prompted the search for a serial killer after investigators determined that DNA found on the bag matched genetic evidence left at the scenes of two previous killings. Prosecutors have said all of the victims are connected to Franklin through either DNA or ballistics evidence.

For more on the Grim Sleeper trial, follow @sjceasar

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

8:44 p.m.: This article was updated with minor editing.

This article was originally published at 3:07 p.m.

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