'Truly a piece of evil': 'Grim Sleeper' sent to death row

LOS ANGELES (AP) " The serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper" was sentenced to death Wednesday for the murders of nine women and a teenage girl that went unsolved for years as the body count grew in a poor section of Los Angeles haunted by the scourge of crack cocaine.

The moment of reckoning for Lonnie Franklin Jr. came after those whose lives were altered by his violence questioned how he could have been so cruel and shown so little remorse.

"You are truly a piece of evil," said Enietra Washington, who managed to survive after being shot and testified against him at trial. "You're right up there with Manson."

The killings occurred over more than two decades and community members complained that police didn't seriously investigate them because the victims were black and poor and many were drug users and prostitutes.

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.

Franklin, 63, avoided suspicion for decades, working as a city trash collector and onetime garage attendant for Los Angeles police. He denied any role in the killings to investigators but didn't utter a word in his defense during his lengthy trial or address the judge at sentencing.

His attorneys had suggested a mystery man was the real killer.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy, a 28-year veteran of the court, said she concluded Franklin preyed on defenseless women because of deep-seated hatred toward them.

"I can't think of anyone I've encountered in all my years in the criminal justice system that has committed the monstrous crimes that you have," she said.

The judge didn't buy the defense argument that California's death penalty was unconstitutional and should be set aside. She also rejected a motion for a new trial.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said Franklin was irredeemable.

"He is a psychopathic, sadistic serial killer who takes joy in inflicting pain on women and killing them," she wrote in her sentencing brief.

Franklin, who showed no emotion throughout trial and six years of court hearings, did exchange words briefly with the family members of two victims.

He silently mouthed something to the mother of one victim and then said he didn't recognize the sister of another who told him to turn around and face her.

"I've never seen you before in my life," he told Vivian Williams, who said he knew who she was. "It's a bald-faced lie."

Williams, the sister of victim Georgia Mae Thomas, said she forgave Franklin for the "horrible things" he'd done because that's what the Bible taught her.

"On the inside I know you're broken and you're hurting just like all of us," she said, adding she would pray for him. "We know that you really need to be delivered."

Franklin was connected to the crimes after a task force that re-examined the old cases discovered that DNA from Franklin's son, which was in a database because of an arrest, 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 and led to his arrest.

Investigators found a gun used in one of the killings and Polaroid photos of victims " including one of Washington, partly nude and bleeding " in Franklin's house after his arrest.

Nearly three decades after the attack, she pointed him out in court, saying, "That's the person who shot me."

Franklin killed seven women between 1985 and 1988 and a 15-year-old girl and two women between 2002 and 2007. Most were fatally shot at close range, though two were strangled. Their bodies were dumped and left to rot in alleys and trash bins.

The killer earned his moniker because of the apparent hiatus from 1988 to 2002, which police once theorized was due to him being imprisoned or laying low after Washington survived.

The killing of Thomas was later found to have occurred during that gap and police now say they don't think Franklin stopped killing until his arrest in 2010.

Franklin's conviction will be automatically appealed. The likelihood he'll be executed is slim because of challenges over the state's lethal injection procedure.

No one has been put to death in San Quentin State Prison since 2006 and there are nearly 750 inmates on death row.

Five of the jurors who decided Franklin's fate returned to court to support the victims Wednesday and to see if the judge would agree with their verdict.

Juror Michelle Mayne-Graves said the hardest part of the trial was viewing autopsy photos of decomposing bodies and hearing the anguish of family members speaking of their loss.

"You could feel their pain, it was palpable, she said. "That was awful."

As a shackled Franklin was led from courtroom, family members started clapping.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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