‘Grim Sleeper’ Serial Killer Dies in California Prison

A Los Angeles serial killer known as “the Grim Sleeper,” on death row since his conviction for 10 murders in 2016, was pronounced dead on Saturday after being found unresponsive in his prison cell, the authorities said.

The inmate, Lonnie D. Franklin Jr., 67, was found in his single cell at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif., about 25 miles north of San Francisco, at about 7:20 p.m., the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

Medical aid was rendered and an ambulance called. He was pronounced dead at 7:43 p.m., the statement said.

There were no signs of trauma and his cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy.

It was not clear whether he had any underlying medical conditions. A department representative on Monday said she could not disclose his health information because of state and federal health privacy laws.

Mr. Franklin was convicted of the murders of nine women and one teenage girl, which were committed from 1985 to 2007.

The long breaks between the killings — he appeared to stop in 1988 and began again in 2002 — earned him the nickname the Grim Sleeper.

Many of the victims had been shot, and some strangled. Prosecutors said DNA or ballistics evidence linked Mr. Franklin to the victims.

The case was cracked after investigators gained a DNA sample from his son, Christopher Franklin, who had been arrested in 2008 on a charge of carrying a weapon. The DNA tipped the authorities to a link with the cold case, leading to his father.

A detective, posing as a pizzeria busboy, collected a slice of pizza partly eaten by the elder Mr. Franklin to get his DNA. Mr. Franklin was arrested in 2010 at his home, not far from the South Los Angeles alleyways where the victims’ bodies had been found.

The authorities said they found hundreds of photographs of women at the home of Mr. Franklin, who was a former sanitation worker and garage attendant for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Among those photos was one of Enietra Washington, who was believed to be the killer’s only survivor.

Ms. Washington testified at trial that Mr. Franklin offered her a ride in 1988 and shot her after she got into the car. She said that he then sexually assaulted her, took photographs of her and left her for dead on the street.

Family members and victim advocates suggested the murders were not handled with urgency because the victims were young African-American women, but the authorities said they never gave up on the case.

Mr. Franklin’s lawyer, Seymour I. Amster, said in a statement on Sunday that he completely respected the jury’s determination that Mr. Franklin 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.

In an interview on Monday, he declined to discuss in detail whether Mr. Franklin had health issues, but said of his death: “I’m not completely surprised by this. It’s one of the reasons we didn’t see the reasonableness of seeking the death penalty in this case.”

Mr. Franklin was sentenced to death in Los Angeles County on Aug. 10, 2016, for 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He arrived on death row a week later.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed an executive order in March 2019 placing a moratorium on the death penalty and granting a reprieve for all those sentenced to death.

The order also called for repealing California’s use of lethal injections and the immediate closing of the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

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