By Paula Lehman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A former sanitation worker was sentenced to death on Wednesday for murdering nine women and a teenage girl as the “Grim Sleeper,” a serial killer who preyed on prostitutes and drug addicts in a Los Angeles crime spree dating back three decades.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy condemned Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, to execution by lethal injection, as recommended in June by jurors who chose capital punishment over life in prison without parole.
The same jury convicted Franklin on May 5 on 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
“I can’t think of anyone in all my years that has committed the kind of monstrous and the number of monstrous crimes that you have,” Kennedy told Franklin, who sat stone-faced before her at the defendant’s table.
Franklin, who is suspected in several other unsolved slayings, showed no discernible emotion as the sentence was pronounced, and did not formally address the court.
But in an outburst earlier during the 3 1/2-hour proceeding, Franklin said the sister of one of the dead was “lying” as she recounted in a victim-impact statement that she and her slain sibling had both once known the killer.
Franklin’s sentencing caps a lengthy investigation and prosecution of one of the most prolific and notorious serial murderer cases in California history, along with “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez and “Freeway Killer” William Bonin.
Franklin is unlikely to face execution in the very near future. The last person put to death in California was in 2006, and the state’s system of administering capital punishment ground to a halt soon after when a court ruling outlawed its lethal injection protocols.
GRIM SLEEPER’S PAUSE
Franklin was found guilty of shooting seven women to death from August 1985 to September 1988, then strangling a 15-year-old girl, and strangling or shooting two other women in a second round of killings between March 2002 and January 2007.
The killer was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because he seemed to have taken a 13-year break between the two spates of murders.
Franklin also was convicted of attacking an 11th victim, who survived being shot, raped, pushed out of a car and left for dead in 1988. She testified against him at trial.
Prosecutors say Franklin stalked the streets of South Los Angeles, singling out prostitutes and drug addicts in a crime spree beginning at the height of a crack cocaine epidemic in the area. His victims’ nude or partially clothed bodies were found dumped in alleys and trash bins.
Franklin did not testify at his trial. His attorneys had sought to raise doubts about DNA evidence and suggested another “mystery man” was behind the killings.
Authorities said after Franklin’s 2011 indictment that they had evidence tying him to several more unsolved slayings, some of which occurred during the presumed lapse in killings. Prosecutors in the penalty phase of the trial were permitted to present testimony about four such cases.
During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing Franklin grew agitated when Vivian Williams, a sister of one of the people identified as a victim, Georgia Mae Thomas, faced him in court and recalled that both had known him and that she waved at him “all the time.”
“I’ve never seen you. I’ve never seen your face. That’s a bold-face lie,” he blurted, before being told to calm down by a sheriff’s deputy.
(Reporting by Paula Lehman; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Trott and Grant McCool)