Trial of Los Angeles’ alleged ‘Grim Sleeper’ serial killer set to begin

LOS ANGELES Opening statements were due to begin on Tuesday in the trial of a former sanitation worker accused of being the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer, charged with slaying nine women and one girl in a Los Angeles crime spree that spanned more than two decades.

Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted in a case that hinges largely on DNA and firearms evidence.

Franklin was indicted on charges of fatally shooting or strangling seven victims between August 1985 and September 1988, and three others between March 2002 and January 2007.

The 13-year-plus gap between the two spates of killings earned the suspected killer the “Grim Sleeper” moniker.

He also has been charged with attempted murder in an attack on an 11th victim, who was shot in the chest, raped, then pushed out of a car and left for dead in 1988. She is expected to testify during the trial.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are slated to deliver opening statements to the jury before the government calls its first witnesses on Tuesday.

Police have said there may have been additional killings during what had previously been considered a pause.

Since the March 2011 indictment against him, police said they had evidence linking Franklin to at least six more slayings, some of which took place during the previously presumed lapse in killings. Franklin has been in jail since his arrest in July 2010.

Detectives said they tied Franklin to the additional deaths after reviewing hundreds of old case files and seeking the public’s help in identifying a collection of 180 photos of women and girls found in his possession.

But authorities decided against seeking additional murder charges against Franklin in order to avoid slowing down his prosecution.

The victims Franklin is charged with killing were all female and ranged in age from 15 to 35. Several were prostitutes and some were raped before they were slain, their bodies found dumped in alleys and trash bins and covered with debris, according to court documents in the case.

Franklin made a living as a sanitation worker and mechanic before his arrest. He came under suspicion after police took a DNA sample from his son in an unrelated case and found it closely resembled DNA recovered in the “Grim Sleeper” murders.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sara Catania and Bill Rigby)

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