Grim Sleeper’s victims were vulnerable, young and at times ignored

A billboard in 2010 showing that the suspect alleged to be the Grim Sleeper had been arrested near a freeway in Compton.

A billboard in 2010 showing that the suspect alleged to be the Grim Sleeper had been arrested near a freeway in Compton.

(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was convicted Thursday by a jury in one of the most notorious serial killer cases in Los Angeles history.

The jury concluded that Franklin was the Grim Sleeper, who preyed on young and black women in South Los Angeles. Most were killed along a corridor in the Manchester Square neighborhood of South Los Angeles, their bodies dumped in alleyways and discarded in garbage bins.

On July 7, 2010, authorities arrested 57-year-old Franklin – a local backyard mechanic -- at his home in South L.A. after police said they made DNA matches linking him to the deaths of numerous women who were killed as far back as 1985.


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Franklin faced 10 counts of murder and one of attempted murder, but investigators suspect he is responsible for additional deaths.

Franklin’s capital murder trial began in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Feb. 16.

Here are the stories of the Grim Sleeper’s victims:

Debra Jackson

Debra Jackson, 29, was shot three times in the chest and her body was found Aug. 10, 1985, in an alley near West Gage Avenue in the Vermont-Slauson area, authorities said.

The first known victim of the Grim Sleeper, Jackson was shot three times in the chest.

At the time of Jackson’s death, the city was in a particularly dark period, when widespread cocaine use, rampant crime and vicious killings were rife in South Los Angeles.

Three years passed before police realized that something larger was occurring, when ballistics tests showed that the same handgun used to kill Jackson had been used in seven other killings.


Henrietta Wright

Henrietta Wright, 35, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds on Aug. 12, 1986, in an alley near the 2500 block of West Vernon Avenue in Hyde Park, authorities said.

At the time of her death, Lt. Joseph Freia, chief of detectives for the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Division, said he had no suspects in the killing. Wright’s body was found under a discarded mattress; she may have been killed elsewhere and dumped in the alley, Freia said.

It was not until later that Los Angeles police tied Wright’s death to the work of a serial killer who had first struck the previous year. She is believed to be the second of 11 victims of the Grim Sleeper.

Barbara Ware

Barbara Ware, 23, was found dead Jan. 10, 1987, in the 1300 block of East 56th Street in the Central-Alameda area, authorities said.


A man who said he saw Ware’s body being dumped called 911 to report what he had seen. According a transcript of the call, the man, who said he wished to remain anonymous because he “knew too many people,” said someone “threw her out ... the only thing that’s hanging out of ‘dis ... like he threw a gas tank on top of her and, uh ... and, uh only thing you can see out is her feet.”

He also reported a full license plate number for the van the body had been dumped from: 1PZP746.

The van described by the caller was located by police in a church parking lot about 4-1/2 miles away from where Ware’s body was found.

Bernita Sparks

Bernita Sparks was found dead April 15, 1987, in the 9400 block of South Western Avenue in Gramercy Park, authorities said.


According to the Los Angeles Police Department, she had been shot with a small-caliber gun. Sparks’ body was discovered in a trash bin.

Los Angeles police believe she is the fifth of 11 victims of the Grim Sleeper.

Mary Lowe

Mary Lowe, 26, was found dead Oct. 31, 1987, in the 8900 block of Western Avenue in Gramercy Park, authorities said.

Her body was dumped in an alley and covered up, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. She had been shot with a small-caliber gun, police said.


Los Angeles police believe she is the sixth of 11 victims of the Grim Sleeper.

Lachrica Jefferson

Lachrica Jefferson, 22, was found dead Jan. 30, 1988, in the 2000 block of West 102nd Place in the Westmont area, authorities said.

Los Angeles police believe she is the seventh of 11 victims of the Grim Sleeper.

Alicia Alexander

Alicia “Monique” Alexander, 18, was found dead Sept. 11, 1988, in an alley near 43rd Place and Western Avenue in Vermont Square, authorities said.


Princess Berthomieux

Princess Berthomieux, 15, was found strangled and beaten March 19, 2002, in an Inglewood alley, authorities said.

Her nude body was found by a passerby in the shrubs, according to coroner’s records. Although the coroner gave the date her body was found as March 9, 2002, officials from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said her body was found 10 days later.

Berthomieux had last been seen by her family on Dec. 21, 2001, police said.

Los Angeles police believe she is the ninth of 11 victims of the Grim Sleeper.


Valerie McCorvey

Valerie McCorvey, 35, was found dead July 11, 2003, on Denker Avenue between 108th and 109th streets in the Westmont area, authorities said.

Los Angeles police believe she is the 10th of 11 victims of the Grim Sleeper.

Near the time of McCorvey’s death, Franklin faced up to three years in prison after pleading no contest to receiving stolen property. As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, however, he was sentenced to jail for 270 days.

Once he entered jail, Franklin again benefited from Los Angeles’ overburdened justice system. Sheriff’s officials were releasing inmates early to ease overcrowding in the county’s jails. Franklin was released in May 2003, more than four months early, according to jail data obtained by The Times.


Two months later, a crossing guard in the Westmont area of the city stumbled across McCorvey’s lifeless body. She had suffered trauma to her neck, police said.

Janecia Peters

Janecia Peters, 25, was found dead Jan. 1, 2007, in the 9500 block of South Western Avenue in Los Angeles. She had been shot and covered with a garbage bag.

A homeless man looking for cans discovered her body and called authorities, according to coroner’s records and police. She was initially listed as an unknown female.

When DNA tests linked her killer to earlier slayings, then-Police Chief William J. Bratton ordered the creation of a task force to investigate the serial killer later dubbed the Grim Sleeper, because the killer had a more than decade-long break in known slayings.


Thomas Steele

Thomas Steele, 36, was found dead on Aug. 14, 1986, at the intersection of 71st Street and Halldale Avenue in Harvard Park, authorities said.

Franklin has not been charged in Steele’s death, although authorities believe Steele’s killing is connected to the other cases.


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1:47 p.m. May 5: This article was updated to reflect that Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was convicted.


This article was originally published on March 1.