Cops Trying to Taint Jury Pool 'Grim Sleeper' With Photos Attorney Charges

PHOTO Help LAPD put names to faces. LAPD releases more than 100 images recovered in possession of the Grim Sleeper.PlayLAPD
WATCH LAPD Releases 'Grim Sleeper' Photos

The Los Angeles Police Department has tentatively indentified five of the dozens of women found in photos discovered on the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer's property.

Deputy Chief of Police and Chief of Detectives David R. Doan said that "five people have identified five specific names" from photos posted on the L.A.P.D.'s website. All claims came through their tip hotline.

He said that "three or four of the five at this point" have come forward and said "it was me in the picture."

"We have not confirmed that and we're going to personally interview everyone," Doan said.

All of the photos were found on the property of the suspected "Grim Sleeper" serial killer, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., and police say they hope people will recognize the faces and contact investigators.

Police are investigating all claims called in and entering them into their computer database. Doan said they are now tracking down the people who made the calls, saying that they were turning most of their attention to people calling in to report that someone in one of the photos is a missing person.

"[It's a] hotter lead...if the person has not been seen for a couple of years," Doan said. "They say 'it's me' is not as hot as someone reported missing."

Doan said that all of the 160 images will remain on the L.A.P.D. website for now.

"We'll take them down if we're satisfied that the individual has been possibly identified," he said.

Los Angeles Police homicide detective Dennis Kilcoyne said various area police websites have recieved over 8 million hits since the photos were made public on Thursday, and the department has recieved hundreds of phone calls.

The photos show women ranging from teenagers to others who look as if they're in their 60s. Some are smiling, others appear to be unconscious.

Click here to view all of the "Grim Sleeper's" victims' photos.

"These people are not suspects," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said of the photos. "We don't even know if they are victims. ... We certainly do not believe that we are so lucky or so good that we know all of the victims. We need the public's help."

Beck also cautioned the public that some of the photos are decades old, and that the women "will have changed, aged."


The Daily Beast's Christine Pelisek reported that the full photos of these women show them with either their breasts exposed or fully naked.

Detective Kilcoyne, who headed the team that tracked down Franklin, would not comment on the nature of the photographed women's "lifestyle or situation." He did acknowledge that the L.A. Police Department was showing only the women's faces, which was "indicative of the content in the photos."

"Our best wish is that we get a phone call from each and every one of the them and that everyone is OK," he said.

Detectives also encouraged any of the women who are still alive to come forward and explain how they came to be photographed.

Franklin, a 57-year-old mechanic, was charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in July in the "Grim Sleeper" case. He is accused of murdering 10 young women between 1985 and 2007 in South Los Angeles.

When detectives searched Franklin's home and surrounding property, they found more than 1,000 photos and hundreds of hours of home video footage in his procession.

"It's a long period of time that he's been taking pictures," Kilcoyne said.

Authorities working on the case said they had been trying to identify the women in the images for months.

Franklin pleaded not guilty to the charges on Aug. 23, 2010, during a court appearance. He remains in custody.

Franklin's attorney, Louisa Pensanti, cricicized the release of the photos, saying it created several problems.

In a statement to ABC News, Pensanti said among the problems "is that the photographs were not part of the discovery that I have been provided with so far from the District Attorney's Office. The photographs include members and friends of the Franklin family, all now subject to the intense scrutiny of the public as well as the police."

Pensanti also criticized investigqtors for comments made at a press conference, which she said were "a deliberate tainting of public opinion and the jury pool. Sadly, the public officials who have the duty to uphold the Constitution have forgotten the basics in their desire for sensationalism and are jeopardizing Lonnie Franklin's chance for a fair trial."

Determining the identity of the "Grim Sleeper," who had eluded police for more than two decades, was helped by a DNA sample taken from the suspect's son.

ABC News' Neal Karlinsky reported on a technique called familial DNA led police to Franklin in July.

Police said the DNA technique could prove more revolutionary than fingerprinting in solving crimes.

"This is a landmark case. This will change the way policing is done in the United States," Beck said at the news conference today.

The technique may also be controversial, and likely faces legal challenges.

"This arrest provides proof positive that familial DNA searches must be a part of law enforcement's crime-fighting arsenal. Although the adoption of this new state policy was unprecedented and controversial, in certain cases, it is the only way to bring a dangerous killer to justice," said Attorney General Jerry Brown in a statement.

The familial DNA program was started by Brown in April 2008 as a way to fight violent crimes when there is "serious risk to public safety," according to the attorney general's office. California is the first state to use familial searches.

The high-profile case had languished unsolved, and had haunted the files of the L.A.P.D. cold-case unit for years.

According to the attorney general's office, the suspect's son was arrested and convicted on a felony weapons charge and swabbed for DNA last year. When his DNA was entered into the database of convicted felons, detectives were alerted to a partial match to evidence found at the "Grim Sleeper" crime scenes.

Police began investigating Franklin's son's relatives, and found a match in Lonnie Franklin. Police said he had never been a suspect until now.

The data bank, which contains more than 1.5 million samples, is the third largest criminal database in the world. Only data from convicted felons is collected, according to Brown, and a number of safeguards are taken before the Department of Justice releases the information to police.

Kilcoyne, who headed the investigation, said it was the second time a query was run for familial connections in the "Grim Sleeper" case. From the DNA matches, a tight circle of law enforcement officers zeroed in on Franklin based on the suspect's residence, location of the victims, his race and age.

Familial DNA database searches have come under fire from privacy and civil liberty advocates, who argue, among other things, that they put more minorities, who are disproportionally represented in the database, in an at-risk group.

The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of familial DNA sample collection and searches. Brown said the office of the attorney general will be in court again next week defending the technique, and raised the possibility of more legal challenges.

The killings of 10 young black women and one man, beginning in 1985, have all been blamed on the "Grim Sleeper." Franklin has not been charged in the shooting death of 36-year-old Thomas Steele, but police said they believe his death is connected to the other killings.

Neighbors Shocked by Franklin's Arrest

The cluster of killings stopped in 1988, but 14 years later police said they linked new murders to the same man. The nickname "Grim Sleeper" came from the long lull between killings. The most recent murder happened in January 2007.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised law enforcement officials for their "exhaustive detective work" in the past 25 years that led to nabbing the suspect. More than two dozen investigators worked to find the "Grim Sleeper."

"I'm proud to announce that this terror has finally come to an end," Villaraigosa said at a news conference.

Relatives of the victims who were in attendance said they were elated and thankful that the police finally brought the alleged killer to justice.

Police closed off the block on 81st Street in South Los Angeles where Franklin lived Wednesday and the arrest was made.

Residents said they were shocked. Neighbor Donna Harris said she has known Franklin, a retired mechanic, for nearly 20 years, and that he was supposed to fix her car that morning.

"Everybody on the block, we all knew if anything was happening with anybody's cars, he was always there for us. Especially the ladies," Harris said. "Even if we weren't at home, instead of calling Triple-A, he would help."

Franklin was reportedly a mechanic for a Los Angeles Police Department station near the center of the murder spree in the 1980s.

Though Harris counted Franklin as a friend, she said the news was frightening.

"It frightens me to know that somebody like that was that close," Harris said. "I don't want to believe it's true, [but] if he did what he's been accused of, God judged him for that."

Franklin has a criminal history dating back to 1989, according to public records. His four previous convictions include charges of a misdemeanor battery and assault, as well as two charges for stolen property -- one of which he served jail time for.

With these latest charges, he could face the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole.

The Long Search for a Los Angeles Serial Killer

A handful of detectives, headed by Kilcoyne, have been working full-time on the case for years, determined to find the "Grim Sleeper."

All the slayings have been connected to the same 25-caliber handgun, and matched to the same DNA, usually saliva taken from the victims' breasts.

"The commonality is that they're all from the same general area of the city in south Los Angeles," Kilcoyne said. "I don't think I would label them all as prostitutes per se, but they certainly have troubled lifestyles. They're broken people and easy targets."

In February, the L.A.P.D. offered a $500,000 reward -- the city's biggest ever -- advertised on billboards near where the victims were found. Investigators also released a 20-year-old 911 call in which a witness says he saw a van pull up in a dark alley and dump a body, which was identified as Barbara Ware.

Listen to the 911 call here.

The caller tells the dispatcher several details, everything from the license plate number of the van -- which was a dead-end lead -- to the way the body was discarded. But he refused to tell the 911 operator his name, saying he didn't see the killer.

Reporter Discovers Serial Killer, Alerts Community

Police say they wouldn't have known there was a serial killer on the loose if he hadn't starting killing again.

"We became aware of it right around April of 2007," LAPD Detective Bill Fallon told "Nightline" in March 2009. "And we realized there was a serial killer because of DNA hits we started getting. So when we get those hits, we're like, 'Whoa.' That's when we started digging it."

But the police didn't notify the community until Christine Pelisek, a reporter from LA Weekly, began investigating.

"I was the one who told some of the family members that their daughters were victims of a serial killer," Pelisek said. "I mean, they didn't even know. The public safety committee, they had no idea. I mean, the police commission, I spoke to the police commission [to whom the police chief reports]. They didn't even know. So there were a lot of people very upset that the police didn't let the community know."

Fallon says investigators didn't want to alert the killer that they were searching for him.

"We wanted to get a a step ahead of the killer himself," he said. "I don't want you to know I'm coming for you until I find out who you are, where you are and what you are doing."