Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lonnie David Franklin Jr: The Grim Sleeper

The victims

The murders linked to the killer first began in 1985, at the height of the crack epidemic in Los Angeles. The first known victim was Deborah Jackson. She was 29 when she was found with three bullet wounds to the chest. She was a cocktail waitress, who, according to America's Most Wanted, had left her friend's apartment and was walking to the bus stop when she disappeared.

Victims from left to right: Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright and Thomas Steele
Victims from left to right: Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright and Thomas Steele

Just over a year later, another victim, Henrietta Wright was found a few miles away from Jackson's body. Like the other women, she had been sexually assaulted and shot.

Bernita Sparks
Bernita Sparks

Hot on the heels of Wright's death, on August 14, 1986, another body was found. This one proved to be the anomaly—Thomas Steele, 36, who, LA Weekly reported, had once worked as a pimp, and who was in town from San Diego visiting family, was found in the middle of an intersection.

Many of the victims had been just going out to run an errand, or had been on their way to a party or a quick stop somewhere. Bernita Sparks, 23, had run out to grab some cigarettes on April 15, 1987, and never came home. She was found in the dumpster on Western Avenue the next day: Sparks' cigarette run turned into a beating, strangulation and death by shooting.

America's Most Wanted reported that Alicia "Monique" Alexander, 18, had been making a run to the store for her dad; she never returned and was found a few days later. Like others, she had been sexually assaulted and shot.

Mary Lowe, 26, had gone out on Halloween night in 1987 to the Love Trap Bar. Walking to or from her destination, at some point, the killer picked her up. She was found the next day in an alleyway on Western Avenue. According to America's Most Wanted, a neighbor had spotted her getting into a reddish-orange Pinto, thus giving police one of their first clues. The neighbor also stated that the driver was male, young and black.

Victims from left: Alicia Alexander, Mary Lowe and Lachrica Jefferson
Victims from left: Alicia Alexander, Mary Lowe and Lachrica Jefferson

One victim seemed to signal that the killer was trying to communicate something to or by his victims: Lachrica Jefferson's body was left in an alley, her faced covered with a napkin. The word "AIDS" was scrawled ominously on the napkin.

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