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article imageLA Police use pizza slice to catch the Grim Sleeper serial killer

By Joan Firstenberg     Jul 7, 2010 in Crime
Los Angeles - The Grim Sleeper serial killer has finally been arrested, on two major pieces of evidence. Police talked to his son in prison and he left a half-eaten piece of pizza in the garbage.
It was that piece of discarded pizza that helped Los Angeles police detectives build their case against the accused killer, 57-year old Lonnie David Franklin, Jr.
The Los Angeles Times Blog reports that detectives used the half-eaten pizza slice to make a DNA match linking him to the murders of 11 people over a period of the last three decades. He is charged with 10 counts of murder, making him eligible for the death penalty.
He got the nickname of the "Grim Sleeper" because he committed a string of murders between 1985 and 1988, and then took a 13-year rest before continuing on with his gruesome work in 2001.
They arrested Franklin Wednesday at his home in South Los Angeles. Sources say he used to be a city trash collector and at one time he even worked fixing cars for the LAPD. A neighbor of his, 47-year old Eric Robinson says he was a familiar face.
“He’s the neighborhood mechanic. He volunteers at the park. A very good man. His daughter just graduated from college, I believe. He’s a good mechanic, worked out of his garage. I’ve been here since 1976; that’s how long I’ve known him. I’m not pretty shocked, I’m all the way shocked."
Luckily for police, the suspected killer had left DNA evidence at several of the crime scenes. In the LAPD's quest to find Franklin, they found out that a man serving time in state prison showed a strong familial match. The man, Franklin's son, was questioned, but he turned out to be too young to have committed some of the older murders. But it was the son who ultimately led detectives to his father, and the pizza provided the DNA link.
The murdered victims were mostly female, within the city of Los Angeles in the unincorporated areas of L.A. County and in Inglewood. The killings began in the 1980s. One person who managed to survive an attack in 1988 gave police his description as black, in his 20s, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10, about 160 pounds, soft-spoken and articulate, with neatly trimmed hair and a pockmarked face. The fact that one victim got away may have spooked the killer since he did not commit any homicides again until 2001. The last time he struck was on January 1, 2007.
The killer's victims were all black, most were apparently prostitutes or drug addicts who were sexually assaulted. A 12th victim escaped after being shot and raped.
This is not Franklin's first run-in with the police. He was convicted of two felonies,, both for receiving stolen property. One was in 1993 and the other was 2003. He served a year in jail for the first conviction and was sentenced to 270 days in jail in the 2003 case.
Neighbors who knew him were shocked. 27-year old Dante Combs says he visited Franklin just last week to ask him to install a timing belt on his car.
"You needed your car fixed, he'd do it dirt cheap. He'd help you out however he could, cut your grass, put up your Christmas lights. He helped all the elderly on the block. I grew up with his daughter and his son. As far as I know, he couldn't be this man. Then again, you never really know a man."
It was just last month that the LA Times reminded the public that the reward for information leading to the conviction of the notorious "Grim Sleeper, an L.A.-area serial killer was now up to nearly $500,000. The paper pointed out that the killer was responsible for at least 11 deaths over the past three decades.
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