'Grim Sleeper' killer, 67, dies after 4 years on California death row

‘Grim Sleeper’ Lonnie Franklin, 67, who murdered ten women during a 23-year killing spree, suddenly dies after four years on death row in California

  • California corrections officials said Lonnie Franklin was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison on Saturday evening
  • An autopsy will determine the cause of death; but there were no signs of trauma 
  • Franklin had been on death row since August 2016 for the deaths of nine women and a teenage girl  
  • Franklin’s killing spree began 1984 and he earned his moniker because of an apparent hiatus from late 1980s to 2002 
  • Police have said he may have had as many as 25 victims 
  • Last year, Franklin was granted a reprieve when Gov. Gavin Newsom halted the execution of more than 700 condemned inmates on the US’s largest death row

Lonnie Franklin, the convicted serial killer known as the ‘Grim Sleeper’ who preyed on the women of South Los Angeles for more than two decades, has died in prison. He was 67.

California corrections officials said Franklin was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison on Saturday at 7.20pm. Medics tried to revive him but he was pronounced dead at 7.43pm.

‘There were no signs of trauma,’ California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton told People on Sunday. ‘They don’t know why he died.’ 

An autopsy will determine the cause of death; however, there were no signs of trauma, corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said in a statement.

Lonnie Franklin Jr., a convicted serial killer known as the ‘Grim Sleeper,’ is sentenced in Los Angeles Superior Court. Lonnie Franklin has at 67. File image

Franklin was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison on Saturday evening


Princess Berthomieux, 15, was a runaway and the youngest victim (left) and Janecia Peters  was his final victim in 2007

Franklin had been on death row since August 2016 for the deaths of nine women and a teenage girl; Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Mary Lowe, Bernita Sparks, Barbara Ware, Lachrica Jefferson, Monique Alexander, Princess Berthomieux, Valerie McCorvey and Janecia Peters.

Berthomieux, 15, was a runaway strangled in Inglewood, California. 

Franklin was linked at trial to 14 slayings, including four women he wasn’t charged with killing. Police have said he may have had as many as 25 victims since 1984.

Most of the victims were fatally shot at close range with a .25 caliber pistol, though two were strangled. Their bodies were dumped and left to rot in alleys and trash bins.

Franklin was also convicted of the attempted murder of Enietra Washington. She testified that Franklin shot her, sexually assaulted her and took a Polaroid picture of her before pushing her out of his vehicle and leaving her for dead 27 years ago. 

Singer-and-actress Macy Gray portrayed Washington in 2014 documentary The Grim Sleeper. 




Victims left to right; Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Mary Lowe, and Bernita Sparks




Victims left to right; Barbara Ware, Lachrica Jefferson, Monique Alexander, and Valerie McCorvey

An autopsy will determine the cause of death; however, there were no signs of trauma, corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said in a statement. Pictured, February 2015

The murders went unsolved for years and Franklin avoided suspicion by working as a city trash collector and onetime garage attendant for Los Angeles police.

The killer earned his moniker because of the apparent hiatus from the late 1980s to 2002. But his final victim was Peters, 25, in 2007. 

Community members complained that police didn’t seriously investigate the killings because the victims were black and poor and many were drug users and prostitutes during the crack cocaine epidemic.

Investigators found a gun used in one of the killings and photos of victims in Franklin’s house after his arrest in July 2010

Franklin was connected to the crimes after a task force that re-examined the old cases discovered that DNA from Franklin’s 28-year-old son, which was in a database because of a 2009 weapons possession arrest. It showed similarities to genetic evidence found on some of the ‘Grim Sleeper’ victims. 

A detective posing as a busboy at a pizza parlor collected utensils and crusts while Franklin was attending a birthday party. Lab results connected him to some of the bodies from deaths in 2002, 2003 and 2007 and led to his arrest.

Investigators found a gun used in one of the killings and photos of victims in Franklin’s house after his arrest in July 2010.

Last year, Franklin was granted a reprieve when Gov. Gavin Newsom halted the execution of more than 700 condemned inmates on the nation’s largest death row for at least as long as he’s governor.

California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006, under then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and inmates are far more likely to die of old age.

The stepmother of a victim named Barbara Ware told People magazine she was shocked by the news.

‘I won’t say I’m pleased he died but at the end there was justice for all the bad things he did in his life,’ Diana Ware said. ‘We can now be at peace.’

Lonnie David Franklin Jr. appears for arraignment on multiple charges as the alleged ‘Grim Sleeper’ killer, in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, July 8, 2010

Franklin was linked at trial to 14 slayings, including four women he wasn’t charged with killing. Police have said he may have had as many as 25 victims since 1984

Tales Of The Grim Sleeper (2014). Picture shows: Suspect Lonnie David Franklin Jr at court, while accused of ten murders across two decades

Last year, Franklin was granted a reprieve when Gov. Gavin Newsom (pictured Saturday) halted the execution of more than 700 condemned inmates on the nation’s largest death row for at least as long as he’s governor

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