Illustration for article titled He Terrorized Poor Black Women for Decades. Now, Californias Grim Sleeper Is Dead
Photo: Al Seib (Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

Lonnie Franklin Jr., the convicted serial killer nicknamed “The Grim Sleeper,” was found dead in his cell this weekend in California’s San Quentin Prison.

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The 67-year-old, who is believed to have killed at least 10 women over the span of 30 years, was found unresponsive in his cell on Saturday night, reports CNN. According to a press release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there were no signs of trauma and that an autopsy is currently being conducted to determine Franklin’s cause of death.

For decades, Franklin killed the kind of women people—particularly the Los Angeles Police Department—didn’t seem to care too much about: women who were black, poor, sex workers, or drug addicts. As BuzzFeed News reports, he would sexually assault his victims, shoot or strangle them. Afterward, Franklin would dump their bodies in alleys or trash bins, according to CBS 13 Sacramento, which adds that LAPD didn’t seriously investigate the killings because the women were killed during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic (at least seven of the women Franklin murdered were killed between 1985 and 1988).

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From CBS 13:

The killer earned his moniker because of the apparent hiatus from the late 1980s to 2002. The murders went unsolved for years and Franklin avoided suspicion by working as a city trash collector and onetime garage attendant for Los Angeles police.

Illustration for article titled He Terrorized Poor Black Women for Decades. Now, Californias Grim Sleeper Is Dead
Photo: Jae C. Hong (File, AP Photo)

The story of how Franklin was finally captured is remarkable: It took years of pressure from local activists to find him, and the work of a cold case unit that eventually connected DNA from a few crime scenes and discovered it bore similarities to DNA from Franklin’s son, whose genetic information was on record due to an unrelated arrest. An undercover detective posing as a pizza parlor busboy eventually retrieved DNA from Franklin himself from used utensils and pie crusts at a birthday party, connecting him to the crime scenes. When investigators raided his home in South Los Angeles in 2010, they found photos and videos of 180 women. According to CNN, police were able to account for all but 30 of the women found in Franklin’s files—their whereabouts and circumstances are still unknown.

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Franklin was convicted of the murder of 9 women and one teenage girl in 2016, though officials suspect he may have murdered up to 25 people. He was sentenced to death for the gruesome killings but was among 700 death row inmates who received a reprieve last year from California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Staff writer, The Root.

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