For over twenty years the LAPD was looking for a serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper, who police say is responsible for at least ten murders. In 1985, the first of many victims was found in an alley, having been shot three times. Ballistics and DNA tests later tied evidence from that killing to six other killings in Los Angeles.
Between 1988 and 2002, there were no similar murders reported, but when DNA evidence connected the 2002 murder of a 14-year old girl to the previous killings, the police realized the serial killer was still at large and active. When the LA Weekly heard about the 14-year lapse in killings, they dubbed him the Grim Sleeper.
In July, after DNA and ballistic detective work, the police arrested serial-killer suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr., who has pleaded not guilty. After months of sorting through evidence and trying to piece the puzzle together, investigators still didn't have a complete picture. In particular, the 14-year gap between 1988 and 2002 is largely unaccounted for, and police worry that Franklin may have committed more murders in those years.
Police Chief Charlie Beck asked for the public's assistance by saying, "We certainly do not believe that we are so lucky, or so good, as to know all his victims. We need the public's help." And the best way for the public to help is by helping to identify women in 180 photos.
After searching Franklin's home and a trailer in the back yard in July, investigators found almost 1000 photos and hundreds of hours of video of what they believe are 160 different women. On Thursday, the LAPD unveiled photos, which they think depict all the women shown in the larger set of nearly 1000.
In similar trials, the police have waited until the defendant was convicted before releasing photos like these, but in Lonnie Franklin's case the police have reached out to the public to help account for a massive 14-year gap in Franklin's history. As the LA Times reported, homicide Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said the LAPD also has "an obligation to account for the welfare of these women."
Franklin's attorney, Louisa Pensanti, disagrees with the publication of the photos, saying it could taint the jury pool.
The LAPD hopes to find some of the women shown in the photographs, and is looking for any tipsters who can identify any of the women’s faces.
"We need the public's help," Beck said. "The public must remember these photos go back 20 and 30 years. People will have changed their appearance. People will have aged. We're very interested in identifying these individuals and speaking with them if at all possible."
The LAPD is looking for anyone who can help identify the women in the released photographs. If you have information about these women they ask you to contact them by calling (877) 527-3247 or by going to www.lapdonline.org