On Wednesday, jurors in the so-called Grim Sleeper trial began deliberations to decide whether Lonnie Franklin Jr., who was arrested in 2010, is or is not a serial killer. Franklin, now 63, faces 10 counts of murder in the killings of nine women and a 15-year-old girl—a series of slayings that began in the mid-1980s. He also faces one count of attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Whatever the verdict, the Grim Sleeper remains just one of many notorious L.A. criminals who’ve worked their way into our collective consciousness. Could you pick any of them out of a line-up?
The Angel of Death
A pudgy, bespectacled respiratory therapist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Efren Saldivar would materialize at the bedsides of critically ill patients, syringe in hand. Confessing to 50 murders in 1998 but pleading guilty to only 6, Saldivar explained that he was just trying to end his victims’ suffering— and lighten his workload on the graveyard shift.
The Spurned Lover
When Sherri Rasmussen’s bullet-riddled body was discovered in her Van Nuys townhouse in 1986, her parents had a theory about who did it. Stephanie Lazarus, an LAPD officer who had been jilted by Rasmussen’s husband, had been harassing Sherri for months, but as one of Chief Daryl Gates’s own, she seemed above suspicion. Not until 2012 was Lazarus convicted, her DNA matching the saliva from a bite on her victim’s arm.
Over the years Eddie Nash gained a reputation for drug trafficking and was charged on multiple counts of murder that never stuck. During his first trial for masterminding the Wonderland Murders—the 1981 killing of four drug dealers—Nash bribed one juror, paying her $50,000 to vote against conviction. The second trial ended in an acquittal, and Nash accepted a plea bargain on another charge.
The Jailhouse Lawyer
Awaiting his SECOND murder trial, Joe Hunt, ringleader of the Billionaire Boys Club’s lethal Ponzi scheme, amassed so many law books and legal documents that officials declared his cell a fire hazard. Already serving life for a 1987 murder conviction, Hunt didn’t win an acquittal but did become the only California defendant who, acting as his own counsel, succeeded in sparing his life in a death penalty case.
On trial for the 2000 kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old boy who was the brother of a “business associate” in the drug trade, Jesse James Hollywood testified that the 1984 film Blame It on Rio inspired him to flee to Brazil as a fugitive from justice. Five years after the killing, the San Fernando Valley pot dealer was caught with false papers and extradited. He’s serving life.
The Black Widows
Before they murdered two homeless men, septuagenarians Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt killed them with kindness. The women put a roof over their heads and fed them for a couple of years— while taking out millions of dollars in life insurance policies on the men and listing themselves as beneficiaries. Then they did in their victims by staging hit-and-runs in 1999 and 2005. The pair was convicted in 2008. You can read more about them here.
The Westside Rapist
In 2008, five decades after his conviction for burglary and attempted rape (for which he served nearly ten years), 72-year-old insurance adjuster John Floyd Thomas Jr. gave his DNA to police. Tests identified him as “the Westside rapist,” who in the 1970s sexually assaulted women in their homes, strangling six of them. After serving five years for a rape in Pasadena, he had resumed his crimes in the 1980s and is a suspect in five murders.
The “Dating Game” Killer
Representing himself during his 2010 trial for the murder of four women and a 12-year-old girl, Rodney Alcala showed the jury a 1978 video of his triumph as Bachelor #1 on The Dating Game. During the penalty phase, he played a snippet of “Alice’s Restaurant,” Arlo Guthrie’s Vietnam-era protest song, and warned jurors against becoming “a wanna-be killer in waiting.” They sent him to death row anyway.
At 33, Anand Jon Alexander had already dressed Janet Jackson and Paris Hilton. In the spring of 2007, the fashion designer was set to star in his own VH1 reality series when he was arrested in Beverly Hills for raping and sexually assaulting models, some as young as 14. “I was busy designing hemlines,” he told the judge after his conviction. “What, I’m gonna threaten them with a sewing needle?”
The Chicken Coop Killer
In 1926, Gordon Stewart Northcott brought his 13-year-old nephew to live on his chicken ranch in Riverside County. For Sanford Clark, life with his uncle meant being beaten and sodomized and witnessing sexual assaults on at least a dozen other boys, three of whom Northcott killed in cahoots with his mother, Sarah Louise Northcott. The 2008 film Changeling was based on the case.
The Loose-Lipped Madam
In the great ’90s crackdown on sex for money in Hollywood, Heidi Fleiss refused to reveal the names of clients in her little black book. Fellow madam Jody Babydol Gibson observed no such code of honor. After serving time, she published a 2007 memoir identifying some of her most prominent customers, prompting the likes of Bruce Willis and Tommy Lasorda to issue vigorous denials.
The Wrong Man
Chester Turner sexually assaulted and strangled the last of his 11 known victims after another man was wrongly convicted of assaulting the first three. In 1992, David Allen Jones, a janitor with an eight-year-old’s cognitive skills, had confessed to those killings when he was grilled by the LAPD without a lawyer present. Only in 2003, once Turner was found guilty of sexual assault, was his DNA linked to the multiple murders.
Illustrations by Sam Kerr