4.26.2012

The ‘Grim Sleeper’ and DNA’s role in apprehending the suspect



Arrest Of Grim Sleeper 1
Arrest Of Grim Sleeper 1 (Photo credit: Antonio Villaraigosa)
            In the 1980’s a series of murders that occurred in California soon began to worry not only the citizens, but the law enforcement officials as well.  The “south side slayer” known for leaving bodies dumped in alley ways or in dumpsters was at first thought to be a singular person. After realizing that other individuals were potentially involved, the minds of law came together to sort the possibilities, which lead to the arrests of Louis Crane, Michael Hughes, Daniel Lee Siebert and Ivan Hill.  Following these events another series of murders, this time using a firearm and then went silent for over 20 years labeling this killer “The Grim Sleeper”, solely for the length of time between kills. What got this killer caught, besides hard work, a mention on America’s Most Wanted and other parameters was his own families DNA, not his own. 
            May 2007, the death of one Janecia Peters using DNA was linked to possibly a dozen murders dating back to as far as 1985.  Law enforcement formed the “800 Task Force” in response to the links and unsolved cases, consisting of 7 detectives in order to apprehend the person responsible.  This
Micah's DNA
Micah's DNA (Photo credit: micahb37)
 may have been a credible avenue, except it was missing a few items; most notably the mayor and police chief NEVER notified the public of the murders or the possibility of a serial murderer being loosed upon their city (this was discovered by a reporter who had been investigating and learned of the 23 year link of murders). Enter Enietra Washington woman who when interviewed (2009) gave account of her encounter with a killer.  A survivor of the “Grim Sleepers” attack, this woman was enticed into a car that had distinct markings both inside and outside, was shot in the chest, sexually assaulted and startled awake as her attacker took a Polaroid picture. 
The Los Angeles Police Department seal
The Los Angeles Police Department seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
            Totaling thirteen victims, in September of 2008 officials set a reward of $500,000 dollars to help catch this killer.  As time and attention began to increase, in November of 2008 America’s Most Wanted featured a story on this killer only hinting that it may be an African American male and the only sketch known was from 1988 which graced the screens.  Frustration and Innovation sometimes work hand in hand and in this case in 2009 the LAPD re-released the initial sketch and 3 other sketches that were “age enhanced”.  Ever diligent in their studies, the police turned to DNA recovered from the crime scenes.  On first effort the data base showed 0 (zero) potential matches, thus leading the police to think the killer had no arrest records.  A second try into the database, this time a positive hit on a family member who may have certain “sufficient similarity” matches in that DNA sample.
            In July of 2010 an arrest was made and the suspect, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., whose son Christopher Franklin played an indirect role in apprehending, was possibly linked to more than just the initial murder of Janecia.  The killer’s DNA, which had been recovered from saliva on a victim’s breast, was linked to his son who had a felony charge against him, this lead police to wait patiently for their suspect to eat at a restaurant, remove DNA from a fork, knife, spoon and cup and pizza crust.  It is important to note that a proposition (proposition 69) which required certain inmates to have their DN
LAPD officers at crime scene
LAPD officers at crime scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A recorded into a database was overlooked in 2004 when Lonnie was serving time for another felony crime, due in part to the
 “unsupervised” probation he was placed upon, which did not allow for DNA collection at that time.  The DNA recovered from the victim was a match on the items processed many years later.
            All of this killer’s victims except one were female; the other was a male and all of African American dissent.  The killer often took pictures of his victims, some conscious and some not, over 1000 in total and many recovered from the killer’s own garage. A criminal record dating back to 1989 for various offenses including assault, this killer chose to use a .25 caliber weapon, sexually assault his victims, dump them out of a van (also had description of van and plate number), had an eye witness who survived and the culmination of all this investigation rested upon DNA’s magic shoulders.  Isn’t forensic science wonderful?
References:
 “Arrest in ‘Grim Sleeper’ killings of ten women, man” MSNBC http://www.msnbc.com
Simon, Mallory (2010-07-08) “Police Suspect in Los Angeles Grim Sleeper case to be arraigned” www.cnn.com
Christine Pelisek (2009-03-12) “Grim Sleeper’s Sole Survivor – News – Los Angeles”
“LA ‘Grim Sleeper’ Probe to Check Unsolved Killings” Yahoo! News (2010-07-23)


           
            

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