Attorney to represent alleged serial killer without cost

City News Service
Aug 9, 2010

A new attorney took over the defense today for a South Los Angeles car mechanic accused of being the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer.

During a brief court hearing in downtown Los Angeles, Louisa Pensanti said she was taking the case against Lonnie Franklin Jr. "pro bono," meaning she won't be paid for her work.

"This case could go on at least conceivably for the next two to three years," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hilleri G. Merritt said, noting that Pensanti would remain pro bono if she took the case.

"If you want to take the case on those terms, those terms will remain," the judge told the Sherman Oaks-based attorney.

Outside court, Pensanti told reporters, "I'm only going to ask and request that you respect all of the families involved in this matter, to respect the legal process, to refrain from making judgments prior to all of the evidence being reviewed."

She said her new client is "doing fine" and "has the support of his family."

Franklin, 57, remains jailed without bail while awaiting arraignment Aug. 23 on 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

He was arrested July 7 on suspicion of carrying out the Grim Sleeper killings over a span of more than 20 years.

Franklin was arrested in front of his home in the 1700 block of West 81st Street, where he worked as a neighborhood backyard mechanic.

Before Franklin's arrest, the so-called Grim Sleeper was linked to 11 killings, mostly in South Los Angeles.

The murder charges include the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, possibly making Franklin eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

Police detectives have said Franklin could be linked to more killings.

Before Franklin was identified as a suspect, investigators used forensic evidence to link eight murders between 1985 and 1988, and three murders between 2001 and 2007, to the same killer, Los Angeles Police Department Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said.

The killer was dubbed the Grim Sleeper because of the 13-year break between killing sprees.

Many of the killer's victims were prostitutes. Some were raped before being shot to death with a small-caliber handgun.

Their bodies were dumped in alleys and trash bins in South Los Angeles, Inglewood and unincorporated county areas.

A woman who survived an attack in 1988 described the suspect as a black man in his 20s, driving an orange Ford Pinto. She said he picked her up, shot her in the chest, raped her, then pushed her out of his car.

Franklin is accused of the:
-- Aug. 10, 1985, slaying of Debra Jackson;
-- Aug. 12, 1986, death of Henrietta Wright;
-- Jan. 10, 1987, killing of Barbara Ware;
-- April 15, 1987, death of Bernita Sparks;
-- Nov. 1, 1987, slaying of Mary Lowe;
-- Jan. 30, 1988, killing of Lachrica Jefferson;
-- Sept. 11, 1988, death of Alicia Alexander;
-- March 19, 2002, slaying of Princess Berthomieux;
-- July 11, 2003, killing of Valerie McCorvey; and
-- Jan. 1, 2007, death of Janecia Peters.

The attempted murder charge involves a Nov. 20, 1988, attack on another woman, according to the complaint.