Grim Sleeper Suspect Previously Arrested 15 Times; How Did He Fly Under the Radar?

Lonnie Franklin Jr. (AP)
Lonnie Franklin Jr. (AP)
Lonnie Franklin Jr. (AP)

LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) Court and jail records indicate that Lonnie Franklin Jr., the suspect in the "Grim Sleeper" killings, was arrested at least 15 times for assaults, burglary and other crimes, but evaded prison despite suggestions from a probation officer who urged that he receive the maximum sentence allowed.

According to authorities, the crimes were never considered serious enough to land him behind bars in state prison or to require that his name be added in the state's DNA database.

But on Wednesday morning police arrested Franklin after familial DNA linked him to the series of murders committed between 1985 and 2007. He was charged with 10 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and other charges in the deaths of young black women throughout the 1980s. Franklin garnered the nickname Grim Sleeper because he took a 14-year hiatus in his crimes.

At a community meeting Saturday, city councilman and former police chief Bernard Parks said law enforcement and police should not be blamed for their past handling of Franklin. According to Parks, jails are "constantly evaluating who can be let go to make room." However Parks says he recognizes the frustration from victim's relatives and the community.

"If people are dead, there is no consolation, there is no excuse," he said.

Records indicate that Franklin should have been locked up in county jail in July 2003 when one of the victims was killed, but was released early because of overcrowding. In that particular case Franklin pleaded no contest to receiving stolen property.

A probation officer described Franklin's actions as unusual and disturbing being that he was involved in such crimes into his 50s, a time when most criminals have slowed down.

"If at this age the defendant is still engaging in criminal activities," the officer wrote, "the community can best be served by imposing the maximum time possible in state prison."

That was not the case with Franklin. He received a mere fraction of the maximum sentence - 270 days in jail and was released four months early, according to jail records attained by the Los Angeles Times.

The next year, California voters passed a measure requiring all felony convicts to be put in the state DNA database.

Although Franklin had frequent arrests, detective Dennis Kilcoyne, head of the task force investigating the killings, said Franklin did not commit crimes that would have drawn detective's attention to the Grim Sleeper case.

Investigators are not ruling out the possibility that there could be more killings that occurred during the 14-year break in the "Grim Sleeper" murders. By uploading Franklin's DNA profile into a national database, investigators are seeing if they can match him to more than 30 cold case files dating back to 1984.