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‘Grim Sleeper’ Serial Killer Dies In California Prison Cell While On Death Row

Lonnie D. Franklin Jr. was on death row for the murders of nine women and one underage teen girl when he was found dead in his prison cell Saturday at San Quentin State Prison.

By Jill Sederstrom

A California serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper" was found dead in his death row prison cell Saturday.

Lonnie D. Franklin Jr., who had been on death row at the San Quentin State Prison for the murders of nine women and one underage teen girl, was found unresponsive in his cell at little after 7 p.m., authorities said.

“Medical assistance was rendered and an ambulance was summoned. Franklin was pronounced deceased at 7:43 p.m. His cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy; however, there were no signs of trauma,” a news release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation stated.

The former garage attendant and sanitation worker was convicted of the murders in 2016 after a killing spree that lasted more than two decades.

He often targeted women who were drug addicts or prostitutes, leaving their naked bodies in the trash or abandoned in Los Angeles alleys, according to The Los Angeles Daily News.

Lonnie Franklin Jr

The first victim he was convicted of killing was Debra Jackson, a 29-year-old mother of two, who was discovered on Aug. 10, 1985. In the years that followed, six more women would be found dead, including Henrietta Wright, 34, in 1986; Barbara Ware, 23, in 1987; Bernita Sparks, 26, in 1987; Lachrica Jefferson, 22, in 1988 and Alicia Alexander, 18, in 1988.

His list of victims also included more women who were killed in the early 2000s including 15-year-old Princess Berthomieux in 2002; Valerie McCorvey, 35, in 2003; and Janecia Peters, 25 in 2007.

He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who would go on to testify against Franklin, according to People. She told jurors that Franklin had shot her, sexually assaulted her and took a Polaroid picture of her before he dumped her out of his car.

Franklin was initially dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of the apparent gap between his kills; however, investigators later said they believe Franklin never stopped killing and that his list of victims could include more women than authorities have identified.

The Los Angeles police got their break in the cold case after Franklin’s son was arrested for carrying a weapon in 2009 and was required to give a DNA sample. Investigators were later able to determine Franklin’s son was a familial match to the killer.

Investigators later followed Franklin to a pizza place and collected his fork, two plastic cups, a plate and his pizza slice after he left and were able to confirm his DNA profile matched their killer.

Franklin was convicted on Aug. 10, 2016 on 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, according to the Department of Corrections.

Diana Ware, the stepmother of victim Barbara Ware, told People she was “shocked” to learn of Franklin’s death.

“I won’t say I’m pleased he died, but at the end there was justice for all the bad things he did in his life. We can now be at peace,” she said.

Franklin’s attorney Seymour Amster also released a statement about his former client’s death.

Amster said he believed the district attorney was “astonishingly shortsighted” in pursuing the death penalty in the case and argued that the financial resources could have been used instead to “uplift young girls of color like Franklin’s victims”; however, he said he also respected the jury’s decision.

“As Lonnie Franklin’s attorney, I completely respect the jury’s determination that he was guilty of the most heinous crimes. And to the victims’ families, I sincerely hope that the end of Franklin’s life brings some peace into theirs,” he said.

California has not executed any prisoners since 2006, when 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen was put to death, according to NPR.