With all his appearances at award shows, trips with his reporter girlfriend and official appearances at big games, it’s hard to know how Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fit an appearance at LAPD HQ into his schedule today, but he did. Here’s the latest AP story on the capture of a suspect in the Grim Sleeper serial killer case:
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says the arrest of a suspect in the so-called “Grim Sleeper” serial killings ends 25 years of “terror” in the city.
The mayor told a press conference Thursday that he wished to thank a special team of detectives that worked on the case full time.
Fifty-seven-year-old Lonnie Franklin Jr. was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and special circumstance allegations of multiple murders that could make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
The killings in South Los Angeles ranged from 1985 until 2007.
Police Chief Charlie Beck says the detective team made its investigation the largest current case in his department.
The Los Angeles Police Department released today an age-enhanced composite sketch of the Grim Sleeper, a serial killer who has been murdering mostly women in South Los Angeles since 1985.
Homicide detectives are hoping the release of the sketch drawn by an artist who works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will trigger the identification of the elusive killer dubbed by the LA Weekly as the Grim Sleeper.
“They find kids all the time” using sketches, said lead homicide detective Dennis Kilcoyne. “They have had a lot of success with it.”
The three sketches are slightly different. Kilcoyne said they wanted the public to have choices because they don’t know what the killer has been doing for the last 22 years. He could be employed and married with children or living on the street. They just don’t know.
Until his April 2 arrest, John Floyd Thomas Jr was a Los Angeles insurance adjuster. Police now call him the “Southland Strangler” — named for the geographical section of Los Angeles County where they suspect he killed at least 30 women and raped many more. Thomas is also in the frame for a spate of crimes police say were committed by the “Westside Rapist”.
On first glance this suspect doesn’t fit the profile of the Grim Sleeper. Reports suggest he targets much older females who live alone and are white. This is a direct opposite of the Grim Sleeper’s known victims – young and black. However there are some striking similarities that are worth mentioning.
Many of Thomas’ victims were strangled and beaten and at least one victim was killed in a location other than her home which suggests Thomas’ MO is markedly varied. The LA times is quoted as saying “On the 17 who were killed, he placed pillows or blankets over their faces.” This is also a signature of the Grim Sleeper who is known to have placed items over the faces of some of his victims.
.Perhaps one of the most startling similarities is the time span and ‘gaps’ that separate Thomas’ crimes. The first wave of slayings took place in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. There followed a decade of ‘Sleep?’ until 1983 when Thomas was released from prison. He committed rape and murder over the next 6 years until 1989.
The site also has an interesting map, developed with the help of a profiler who notes that
“the Grim Sleeper attacks women within one mile from his home, and works to blend into the neighborhood.”
LA Weekly updates the Grim Sleeper story with the tale of a survivor:
Early on Sunday, November 20, 1988, the E.R. doors crashed open at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance. A woman had been sexually assaulted and shot, and the bullet that tore through her chest had collapsed her lung and made it nearly impossible to breathe. As workers rushed the blood-drenched victim, Enietra Margette, to surgery, she could hear scattered bits of conversation between two relatives who had raced to her side at the hospital, her aunt and uncle.
Gasping for breath, she was surprised to see Superman himself peering down at her. Superman — a doctor who looks like the late superhero actor George Reeves — leaned close to inform Margette that he had to place a tube in her chest. “I asked him if I was going to die. He said, ‘I don’t know.’”
That bloody night almost 21 years ago is pivotal in helping to solve one of the greatest murder mysteries ever to face Los Angeles police: that of the Grim Sleeper serial killer. Margette, his only known survivor, is Exhibit 1. Or perhaps that honor goes to the smashed bullet dug from her torso — a .25-caliber hunk of metal partially flattened after striking her chest bone, and now a crucial piece of evidence in LAPD’s hunt for the killer.
America’s Most Wanted will devote part of its show Saturday to the tale of the Grim Sleeper. The LA Weekly outlined the story several weeks ago. Here’s a link to the show’s Web site. This from the AMW press release:
AMW host John Walsh and special guest LAPD Chief William Bratton will share the latest developments in the case of “The Grim Sleeper,” a serial killer who earned his nickname after committing at least 11 violent murders in the 1980s, only to resurface and strike again 13 years later.
Walsh will also take viewers to the mean streets populated by the city’s homeless, and ask them to help solve the brutal and senseless murder of John McGraham. McGraham was a fixture on the streets of L.A.’s Koreatown neighborhood, a man who’d been given a raw deal by life but was making the best of it. The community considered him to be one of their own, and protected him as best they could. In October 2008, someone doused the helpless man with gasoline and set him ablaze, leaving him to die in the streets.
LA Weekly this week chronicles the case of a serial killer on the prowl in south Los Angeles. The killer who was prolific in the mid 1980s resurfaced in 2002 and 2003, according to the Weekly, who gave the person or persons the moniker Grim Sleeper:
Local journalists haven’t even assigned him a creepy nickname, like Night Stalker (Grim Sleeper was chosen by the Weekly to mark his 13 years of inactivity before killing again).
It’s coincidental that I began my column this week on the crime wave of 1985 and 1986, because apparently the Grim Sleeper was most prolific during this period. Going through teh Tribune archives over the past several days, I believe I read some news accounts of the at least three of the slayings. I’ll post up scans later this week.