On May 5, 2016 Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a former Los Angeles sanitation worker, was found guilty for the murder of 10 young Black women and the attempted murder of one survivor. Known as the Grim Sleeper, the murders Franklin was convicted of span from 1985 to 2007:
– Debra Jackson, 29, body discovered August 10, 1985;
– Henrietta Wright, 34, body discovered August 12, 1986;
– Barbara Ware, 23, body discovered January 10, 1987;
– Bernita Sparks, 26, body discovered April 16, 1987;
– Enietra Washington, 30, shot, sexually assaulted, and thrown from Franklin’s car, 1988;
– Mary Lowe, 26, body discovered November 1, 1987;
– Lachrica Jefferson, 22, body discovered January 30, 1988;
– Alicia Alexander, 18, body discovered September 11, 1988.
– Princess Berthomieux, 15, body discovered March 9, 2002;
– Valerie McCorvey, 35, body discovered July 11, 2003; and
– Janecia Peters, 25, body discovered January 1, 2007.
There are likely additional victims. In 2010, over 180 photographs of approximately 100 women, some of which have yet to be identified and appear to be sleeping or unconscious, were seized from Franklin’s home in south Los Angeles. The District Attorney’s office has announced that they will be trying Franklin for five additional murders.
The Los Angeles Police Department did little to investigate the murders or warn women, despite efforts from the Los Angeles Black community and concrete leads such as a vehicle description. In the mid-1980s, Margaret Prescod, a community activist who founded the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders (BCFBSM), approached the police. “We went down to what was then Parker Center Police Headquarters to find out about the murders, see what was being done about it, how the community was being informed,” Prescod told NPR, “and we were told by the guy in charge…‘Why are you concerned about it? He’s only killing hookers.‘ “
This is not a rare occurrence. Police have often failed to investigate cases involving women of color, women with criminal histories, and sex workers. Examples include Gary Ridgeway, Robert Hansen, Anthony Sowel, Darren Deon Vann, John Eric Armstrong, Michael A Johnson, and the Russian Ripper.
Today, over 64,000 Black women are missing and Black women are murdered at three times the rate of white women. Street-based sex workers are 60-100 times as likely to be murdered as other women.
SWOP-USA applauds the guilty verdict and the prosecution’s decision to pursue additional charges. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families, those who have received delayed justice as well as those still awaiting it. And we are grateful for Prescod and BCFBSM’s decades-long, persistent efforts to advance justice for the families of countless Black women who have been murdered in the Los Angeles area, many of which remain unsolved. We offer whatever advocacy support would be useful to Prescod and BCFBSM, as well as any survivors and families of victims.
The work is far from done. Echoing Prescod’s statement following Franklin’s conviction:
As we move forward from this place and go on to the next phase of things, we know that this is one stage of justice…We are recommitting ourselves today to continue that fight for justice for the 35 women in the photos that were found in Lonnie Franklin’s home that remain unaccounted for. We want justice for them as well.