The Los Angeles Police Department’s phones are ringing off the hook. Its website has received approximately eleven million hits. People are fascinated with serial killers, and the Grim Sleeper is no exception. The LAPD has released approximately 180 photos to solicit the public’s help in identifying more of this serial killer’s possible victims.
The photos were discovered in the house of Lonnie David Franklin Jr. — the Grim Sleeper himself. Franklin was arrested in July and arraigned on ten counts of murder plus one count of attempted murder. Among those he photographed, twenty-nine have been identified so far. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 31, 2011.
Speaking to Pajamas Media about the case, LAPD Detective Dennis Kilcoyne described Franklin in all-too-familiar terms. Neighbors thought of Franklin as “a happy-go-lucky guy. All the information we have from people is that he led a fairly normal life.” Yet Franklin seems to be a sexual pathological serial killer. Although research shows that only one percent of the population are psychopaths, Franklin appears to manifest some key psychopathological traits and characteristics — manipulative and wanting in empathy, remorse, and conscience. On the case since 2007, Kilcoyne was handpicked for a task force pulled together with veterans of “serial high profile cases.” Their job: to heat up what had become a very cold case. The killings for which Franklin is accused began in 1985; Franklin himself was dubbed the Grim Sleeper because it was believed there was a fourteen year gap between murders.
Kilcoyne relayed how “frustrating it was for us when nothing happened over a three year period.” He told Pajamas Media that they wanted “to push the envelope with this investigation. We offered a $500,000 reward for a longtime crime, put the photo display on the Internet, and used familial DNA.” Since Franklin was never jailed, there was no DNA sample available for the LAPD to rely on. But in 2009, a sample was collected from Franklin’s son, convicted of an unrelated crime. Comparing that sample to Franklin’s, detectives collected samples from some of Franklin’s victims — and found a match.
The victims range in age from fourteen years old to their mid-thirties. Those killed were especially vulnerable: runaways, narcotic abusers, and prostitutes, mostly street people. Mary Ellen O’Toole, a retired senior FBI profiler who worked on the Grim Sleeper case from 2007 to 2009, told Pajamas Media that a killer’s consistent targeting of victims on the margins of society would allow him “to avoid detection and arrest” for over fourteen long years.
Serial killers like the Grim Sleeper, said O’Toole, “are not crazy. They know right from wrong. If you meet them on the street they could be the most charming, normal people. There is nothing about them that will stand out. They understand the importance of maintaining a façade of normalcy to keep from being identified or arrested. The ability to alternate between two extreme lifestyles, extremely dangerous versus normal, suggests an individual whose adaption skills are very good.”
Now a private forensic behavioral consultant, O’Toole complained that the popularity of hit shows like CSI has resulted in an incorrect view of serial killers. The killers, O’Toole said, “don’t need something to happen to go out and kill someone. They don’t wake up one morning and decide to become a serial killer. It is a result of trial and error such as learning how to kill, the necessary tools, and victim selection.”
Kilcoyne, O’Toole, and all those in law enforcement working on this case are speaking for victims who, in nearly every case, can no longer speak for themselves. The one known woman survivor, who is being very cooperative, recounts Franklin’s behavior as a predator, patrolling the neighborhoods and soliciting her to get into his car. Once inside, he shot her multiple times, sexually assaulted her, and left her for dead.