L.A. police release photos of possible "Grim Sleeper" victims

LOS ANGELES Thu Dec 16, 2010 5:41pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Police investigating an accused serial killer dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" asked for public help on Thursday identifying women and teenage girls depicted in 180 photos seized from his possession and feared to be among his victims.

The pictures were recovered from the Los Angeles home of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a 57-year-old retired sanitation worker and auto mechanic arrested in July and charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in a string of killings that began in the 1980s.

"These people are not suspects, we don't even know if they are victims, but we do know this: Lonnie Franklin's reign of terror in the city of Los Angeles, which spanned well over two decades, culminating with almost a dozen murder victims, certainly needs to be investigated further," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters at a press conference.

"And we certainly don't believe we are so lucky or so good as to know all of his victims. We need the public's help," Beck said.

The color images were distilled from more than 1,000 photographs and hundreds of hours of videotape found in Franklin's home.

Authorities believe Franklin took most of the pictures, which show mostly African American women ranging in age from their teens to middle age or older, typically nude or exposing their breasts.

Some of the women appear to be sleeping, unconscious or possibly dead, while others are smiling broadly or even laughing. A few pictures are close-ups of potentially identifying marks, such as a tattoo.

"The public must remember that these photos go back 20 and 30 years. People will have changed their appearance. People will have aged," Beck said. "We are very interested in identifying these individuals and speaking to them if at all possible."

Police detectives began investigating the murders in the 1980s, when the bodies of several women were found in south Los Angeles. Most had been sexually assaulted and shot with a .25 caliber pistol.

The serial killer appeared to take a nearly 14-year hiatus between November of 1988 and March of 2002, prompting the L.A. Weekly newspaper to tag him the "Grim Sleeper."

Franklin was initially linked to the murders after police took a DNA sample from his son, in an unrelated case, and found that it closely resembled DNA evidence recovered in the "Grim Sleeper" murders.

He is being held without bail pending a preliminary hearing in the case scheduled for January.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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