Grim Sleeper Serial Killer Case: Arrest made, but case was handled poorly

On first glance, it would seem like good news all around that an arrest had been made in the Grim Sleeper Serial Killer case, where all but one of the 11 murders associated with the case were of African American women. However, additional details about this case raise important questions about how these murdered women may have been re-marginalized by the members of society that were assigned to protect them: law enforcement.
The Black Coalition Fighting Black Serial Murders has been one of the chief organizations on the ground in South LA advocating for the victims and the sole survivor in this killing spree. Check out their synopsis of how law enforcement dropped the ball on this case:

Because the killings were not connected as serial murders, the tragic enormity of the situation has been hidden and downplayed, and vital evidence, connections and patterns may have been missed. Public and media attention which would have been greater if the total numbers of deaths had been known, would have spurred the police into a more vigorous investigation. Lives might have been saved and the community better protected from further attacks.
Families of several of the victims were never notified by law enforcement that their loved ones were killed by a serial murderer–and neither was the lone survivor of the attacks. Each was made to believe that it had been a random killer. Many families had to learn from press articles or from television! Crucial patterns of evidence have been missed.

Beyond the fact that the case has been opened for almost as long as I have been alive, 25 years, is the disappointing reality that it took 20 years of pressure for LAPD to finally release a composite sketch of the main suspect. 20 Years. I am apoplectic with frustration. How are you suppose to track down a criminal that has committed egregious acts of this magnitude when no one in the community knows what they look like?? On top of all this, when a photo was finally released in December 2009 it wasn’t even the age-enhanced composite, it was a sketch of what the murderer looked like 2 decades ago.
While my love and support goes out to the family members who have derived some sense of closure from this recent arrest, a formal evaluation of how this case was handled needs to be done when this case comes to a close. And activists in other parts of the country who seek justice for the murders of marginalized victims should also take note. I feel the need to remind folks that the serial killer involved in the Rocky Mount murders remains at large. Here again we have a disturbingly similar recipe: all Black women, some of which are sex workers or battling drug addiction, or both; hesitance on the part of law enforcement to confirm that it was a serial killer and gross under-reporting by the mass media. It cannot be underscored how important it is to raise media awareness for these victims. In the Rocky Mount Case, 9 women have been killed in a span of about 7 years and two remain missing. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 18 for the perpetrator of these crimes to be brought to justice.

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3 Comments

  1. JPlum
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    What gets me are the headlines and stories where his neighbours call him “a regular guy”, as they relate stories like:
    “Tasha Cole said he would point out different prostitutes when they would walk by and talk about them disrespectfully, calling them “crackhead ho’s.”
    Another neighbour, Sherwood Howard, said Franklin would show off nude photos he took of the women from the neck down and talk about his exploits. He kept the pictures in the garage.
    “He’d go and mess with women all night long,” Howard said. “We knew he was kind of weird, but he was a regular person. We never suspected he was killing them.”
    Yep, that’s just a regular guy. Nothing out of the ordinary.

  2. cattrack2
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry but this seems like sheer speculation. There’s much that is unknown about the case and we’re leveling accusations without any evidence to support it. Sure where there’s smoke there’s fire, but there’s not even smoke here. Well publicized serial killers often go decades without being caught so its not even a fair assumption to say that somehow things would’ve turned out different. Moreover, there’s something to be said for NOT distributing vague, prone-to-error age enhanced pics. After the police released such a sketch of a serial rapist earlier this year in my city more than half a dozen black men were stalked, stopped and harassed by citizens. One even followed a ‘suspect’ all the way across town & tried to forcibly detain him. A gunfight nearly broke out when the ‘suspect’ tried to defend himself. When they finally caught the guy–through DNA–he looked nothing like the sketch. If you want famous proof, compare the sketch of the Unabomber to an actual pic of Ted Kacyzinski. Nothing alike. And, to be honest, most serial killers prey on marginalized women–drug addicts, prostitutes, etc–because they’re the most vulnerable and least likely to be missed, making the killer’s tracks easier to hide.
    So to me this is heaping accusation on speculation on conjecture. Personally I think its ok to pat law enforcement on the back sometimes.

  3. Moe
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    This really points to the stigmas that are still so prevalent in our society today. It is so easy for some people to only see drug addiction or prostitution or race and to not look past that and see the horrendous violence inflicted upon these women for what it is. It saddens me that these stigmas and stereotypes still effect the actions taken by law enforcement. I dare someone to tell me that institution racism no longer exists. This is a blatant example.

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