The Grim Sleeper: A Serial Killer Who Was Caught By A Slice Of Pizza

By | June 20, 2020

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(Los Angeles Police Department)

Beginning in the 1980s, a serial killer stalked the women of South-Central Los Angeles for nearly two decades. The Grim Sleeper, known as Lonnie Franklin to friends and family, led the police on a wild goose chase for years until a stray slice of pizza tossed in the trash brought him down. In the meantime, terror spread throughout Los Angeles as people wondered when he would strike again. He was so prolific that some theorized the Grim Sleeper must be multiple people.

Prior Convictions

Born in South-Central on August 30, 1952, Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. appeared to be a fairly normal guy. Not much is known about his childhood, but after high school, he enlisted in the Army and received a dishonorable discharge after he was convicted of taking part in the gang rape of a young girl while stationed in Germany. Franklin and two other servicemen had stopped along the highway to ask a 17-year-old girl directions before offering her a ride, but when she got in the car, they held a knife to her throat and took turns assaulting her. The young woman tricked Franklin into giving her his phone number, which she subsequently gave to the police.

All three men were tried and convicted, but Franklin only served one year of his four-year sentence. LAPD detective Daryn Dupree told People Magazine:

We don't know why he got out. The other guys did their whole time. He got caught and got away with it and he came back here and he started getting girls again. But as soon as they showed hesitation or gave him a hard time, he killed them. Any inkling of him getting caught or them treating him bad, he killed them.

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(Los Angeles Times)

"No Humans Involved"

After returning to the States in the mid-'70s, Franklin blended in with the Angelenos and resumed his normal life. It's believed that he embarked upon his killing spree around 1985, but no one knows for sure because Franklin's murders were considered "NHI" cases, LAPD code for "no humans involved." This moniker was applied to cases involving sex workers, ex-cons, or other people whose victimization the police weren't terribly inclined to investigate. It likely kept the LAPD from catching Franklin earlier and definitely led to the deaths of more women.

Racial stereotypes in the time and region he lived also played a part in keeping Franklin on the streets. In the mid-'80s, the public image of a serial killer was generally that of a white man who preyed on predominantly white women. As a black man who targeted black women, Franklin stayed under the radar in the worst way.