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.