Evidence

Son's DNA & Discarded Pizza Slice ID Suspect in 10 'Grim Sleeper' Murders Over 25 Years


A controversial use of DNA evidence that is expressly permitted by statute in only two states has identified a suspect in at least 10 so-called “Grim Sleeper’ killings over the past 25 years.

Lonnie Franklin Jr., 57, was charged today with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in a series of killings in South Los Angeles, and the city’s police chief says he could face more murder charges, reports the New York Times.

It may be the first time in United States history that familial DNA has been used to solve a murder case, according to the newspaper.

After being pinpointed as a suspect in the cold serial killing case by DNA obtained from his son, Franklin was put under close surveillance. When he discarded a partially eaten slice of pizza, it was tested and allegedly matched DNA taken from crime scenes.

Franklin, who works as a mechanic for the city of Los Angeles, is being held without bail. The Times article doesn’t include any comment from him or his lawyer.

Familial DNA testing is controversial because it raises privacy concerns and potentially puts a class of people under greater scrutiny than fellow citizens.

However, it is a crucial evidentiary tool that may provide the only means of solving a number of violent crimes, proponents say.

Known as a good neighbor and devoted father in his South Los Angeles community, Franklin was a small-time crook with two convictions for felony possession of stolen property, reports the Los Angeles Times. However, the community was tolerant of the retail electronics and auto parts shop he ran out of his home, since, as several neighbors recall thinking, it wasn’t as if he was killing people.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com (Feb. 2008): “Sweeping DNA Searches By U.K. ‘Gene Police’; Will US Follow Suit?”

ABAJournal.com (Aug. 2008): “LAPD Hunts 23-Year Serial Killer”

ABAJournal.com (Sept. 2008): “L.A. City Council Offers $500K Bounty for Unknown Serial Killer”

ABAJournal.com (Dec. 2008): “DNA Database Search for Relatives of Serial Killer Turns Up No Leads”

LA Weekly: “How They Caught Grim Sleeper Suspect Lonnie David Franklin Jr: His Own Son’s DNA Trail Led Them Straight To Him”

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