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Grand jury indictment returned against alleged 'Grim Sleeper' serial killer

3/24/2011, 11:47 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--A grand jury indictment was unsealed today against the suspected "Grim Sleeper'' serial killer, who is accused of murdering 10 women and trying to kill an 11th victim in a crime spree that stretched over more than two decades.

The indictment, returned Wednesday and unsealed this afternoon by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Schnegg, contains the same charges filed last summer against Lonnie David Franklin Jr.

"The indictment in the 'Grim Sleeper' case that was unsealed today in the Superior Court was necessitated by a desire to move this significant case forward to trial,'' District Attorney Steve Cooley said. "The families of the victims should be accorded timely resolution of the allegations of the murders of their loved ones.''

Franklin, 58, had been awaiting a hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to require him to stand trial on 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, along with the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders. The indictment eliminates the need for that hearing and moves the case closer to trial.

Franklin--who remains jailed without bail--is due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse on April 4 for a pretrial hearing.

Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will seek the death penalty, but have done so in numerous other serial killing cases, including that of Chester Turner, who was convicted of sentenced to death in 2007 for murdering 10 women and is now charged with strangling four others.

Franklin was arrested last July 7 in front of his home in the 1700 block of West 81st Street, where he worked as a neighborhood backyard mechanic.

He was identified as a suspect using familial DNA--investigators determined that his son had DNA similar to the killer, and when they subsequently got Franklin's DNA, his genetic material allegedly matched forensic evidence from eight murders between 1985 and 1988, and three murders between 2001 and 2007.

The killer was dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' because of the 13-year break between killing sprees.

Many of the killer's victims were prostitutes. Some were raped before being shot to death with a small-caliber handgun. Their bodies were dumped in alleys and trash bins in South Los Angeles, Inglewood and unincorporated county areas.

A woman who survived an attack in 1988 described the suspect as a Black man in his 20s, driving an orange Ford Pinto. She said he picked her up, shot her in the chest, raped her, then pushed her out of his car.

Franklin is accused of murdering:
* Debra Jackson on Aug. 10, 1985;
* Henrietta Wright on Aug. 12, 1986;
* Barbara Ware on Jan. 10, 1987;
* Bernita Sparks on April 15, 1987;
* Mary Lowe on Nov. 1, 1987;
* Lachrica Jefferson on Jan. 30, 1988;
* Alicia Alexander on Sept. 11, 1988;
* Princess Berthomieux on March 19, 2002;
* Valerie McCorvey on July 11, 2003; and
* Janecia Peters on Jan. 1, 2007.

The attempted murder occurred on Nov. 20, 1988.

By Terri Vermeulen Keith | City News Service