A Grim Update on “The Grim Sleeper”

The search for victims continues with the help of the press

The Darts & Laurels feature in our November/December issue recognized the excellent work that L.A. Weekly staff writer Christine Pelisek did in bringing a serial killer’s case to light, and maintaining public attention on the legislation that was necessary to bring “The Grim Sleeper” to justice.

Pelisek has since moved on to The Daily Beast, but L.A. Weekly hasn’t dropped the story, even after Lonnie Franklin Jr. has been identified and arrested. The latest development was the LAPD’s release of hundreds of photographs seized from Franklin’s home, most of which are of women that police are asking for help in identifying.

As Pelisek writes at The Daily Beast,

Police believe those in the color photographs, most of which are pictures of women and teenage girls, may be even more victims of the alleged killer. Some of the pictures, which were taken by the 58-year-old Franklin before his arrest, show women who range from teenagers to women in their sixties, exposing their breasts or fully nude. Some photographs show women who look like they may be asleep, unconscious, or dead. The photographs were taken in cars, in Franklin’s motor home, and in his backyard garage.

L.A. Weekly, The Daily Beast, and the Los Angeles Times are among the news outlets to post the photographs alongside the LAPD website. In so doing, they are providing a public service similar to that of the Long Island Press story by Jaclyn Gallucci that earned this CJR issue’s other laurel for opening up old unsolved murder cases and asking for readers’ help in naming unidentified victims.

ABC reports that five women have been identified so far. The Los Angeles Times is doing its own investigating into the photos as well, using Google Street View to trace some of the victims’ stories.

After the Grim Sleeper photos went up online last week, the LAPD was flooded with calls, many of which were people calling in to say “that’s me.” But at least one picture has since been identified as Janecia Peters, one of Franklin’s eleven confirmed victims. That leads police to think that the photos may depict more victims who were previously unknown.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner