Christine Pelisek — petite, blonde, Canadian — seems the least likely reporter to have broken the story on the longest running serial killer west of the Mississippi. But in 2008 she did just that with her cover story for LA Weekly, shedding light on a suspected killer of women in South Central Los Angeles who had been active since the 1980s. Dubbing him “The Grim Sleeper” for his possible long break between murders, Christine was the only one who put the pieces together after the L.A. coroner reluctantly handed her a list of thirty-eight possibly linked homicides in 2006.
Alleged serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. lived in South Central Los Angeles in the same neighborhood where his victims were found. He was a husband, a father, and neighborhood fixture. The victims were all women; some were prostitutes or drug addicts discarded like trash during a time the city was overrun with crime, drugs, and racial strife. Franklin is currently charged with ten murders, but investigators think he is responsible for at least twenty more.
The Grim Sleeper captures a singular case but also tells a bigger story: about urban homicide investigations in areas beset by poverty and gang violence; about how a serial killer could continue his macabre work for so long in part due to society’s lack of concern for his victims; and about the power and tenacity of those who refused to let the case go cold.