Lonnie Franklin, serial rapist and murderer, ravaged the Los Angeles from the 1980s to early 2000s. A supposed "break" in his killings between 1988 and 2002 gave him the nickname "The Grim Sleeper". Was he really in hibernation for those 14 years? Listen to this episode and decide for yourself.
This episode may be upsetting for some listeners, so listener discretion is advised.
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Hi Everyone, Welcome to Killer Astrology, the podcast. I’m your host, Laura, and today we’re discussing a killer widely known as The Grim Sleeper who ravaged his Los Angeles community between 1985 and 2007. There are 10 murders tied to our killer, Lonnie Franklin, but some estimate the number is far higher, by about 10 times, actually, bringing the total past 100.
How does someone get away with that many murders over so many years? We’ll discuss what we know about Lonnie’s crimes well as the societal factors that played into his case. Then, we’ll move on to the astrology.
Lonnie Franklin grew up in South Central Los Angeles in the 1950s. South Central LA is a rough area now, but looking at its history, we get a really good sense of why. In the early 1900s, LA was touted as a place with a solid economy and a less racist culture than the big cities in the south, so many black Americans moved out to LA hoping for happier, more financially stable lives. In the 1940s around the start of World War Two, a law was passed that made it illegal for companies producing wartime supplies to discriminate when hiring. So, with the promise of a lucrative career in a more inviting place, migration to LA exploded. But segregation was still high due to racist property laws, and the growing black community became confined to specific areas of the city, including the South Central neighborhood. Now, by 1952 when Lonnie Franklin was born, the property laws had been changed, creating opportunities for black people to move around the city...theoretically. But, segregation is about more than just laws. Lots of other systemic and cultural factors need to be changed in order to transform oppression into opportunity, and that’s not a quick process. I’m not a historian by any stretch, but one thing I know about wartime jobs is that once the war is over, the jobs are, too. And the Civil Rights Act of 1964 wasn’t passed until, well, 1964, so in the 1950s it would have been very difficult for members of a segregated black community to be hired for jobs outside their area, making the opportunities for financial stability slim, and the chance to move out of their current living situation even slimmer.
So, why am I saying all of this? Well, racial injustice was a huge element in this case. All of the women that Lonnie targeted were black, and especially in the 1980s when Lonnie first started killing, so we think, Black women were more invisible, and that played into how their deaths were investigated. And in LA, this history is one of the roots of the systemic racism that made its way into this case. We can’t overlook that.
Another reason I’m bringing this up is that it had to affect Lonnie’s upbringing. Unfortunately, there’s virtually no information out there on Lonnie’s early life. But if we know more about the history of when he was born, we can draw some hypotheses. Leonard likely grew up in a financially stressed household in a community where this was the norm, and where societal challenges were abundant. Police targeted the black communities in LA at wildly disproportionate rates in the 1950s, which is also when the civil rights movement began. So it was a time of discomfort, oppression, and upheaval, all while people needed to find ways to get their basic needs met.
I mention all of this because it helps me understand Lonnie’s character as an adult, as well as the relationship he had to his community. Lonnie was known around town as the man who could get you anything you asked for. The man who could get your needs met. Maybe that was a trend in his family, or a type of resourcefulness he learned in the army, I don’t know. But the point is that he had many friends who trusted him.
Sometimes supporting them meant doing something illegal, and Lonnie became well-versed in the world of crime.
And that he was willing to do many illegal things to get his friends what they needed. But he probably didn’t do all those things alone. Lonnie had a number of people he would hire to help him with various jobs...which sometimes included burning cars or changing carpets.
In a documentary called “Tales of the Grim Sleeper”, two of Lonnie’s friends mention strange things that they found while helping him, including women’s underwear in a blood soaked car and strange stains on the carpets in Lonnie’s van. In the first case, Lonnie’s friend was meant to send the car up in flames, and in the second, to clean up the carpet. But Lonnie was a good guy with a mild disposition who always had your back, so no one questioned these or other requests.
The mysterious clean ups Lonnie requested weren’t the first hints of criminality in Lonnie’s past. Before he was arrested on multiple counts of murder, Lonnie was arrested and jailed for a number of other offenses, including Grand Theft Auto, battery, and false imprisonment. He was also discharged from the army in 1975 for abducting a 17-year old girl from a train station before raping her at knifepoint with an accomplice and taking pictures of the whole affair. For this attack, Lonnie was sentenced to 40 months in prison. He served about 25% of that sentence and was then discharged from the service. Then, he returned to Los Angeles.
When he got home from the army, Lonnie became a trash collector, which gave him an even more intimate knowledge of his neighborhood. He got into a relationship with a woman he loved who was also addicted to crack cocaine. It’s been said that the failure of this relationship is what fueled the string of killings Lonnie would go on to commit, since many of the women Lonnie later targeted were addicted to drugs. That’s one perspective, but it may just be that Lonnie knew drug addicts were less likely to be missed, and also that they were easier to manipulate if he promised them drugs. In addition to targeting drug users, Lonnie also targeted prostitutes. He had sadistic sexual fetishes that he used them to act out, sometimes against their will. Although all the murder victims tied to Lonnie had gunshot wounds, many of them were also strangled.
There was about a 10 year period between the rape of the German teenager and the first murder tied to Lonnie: the death of Debra Jackson. In that 10 year span, Lonnie married a new woman and had a son named Chris. His marriage was complicated: sometimes the couple were together, sometimes they weren’t. But it seems that whether they were on again or off again, Lonnie was sleeping with other women: many or all of them drug users or prostitutes. And his son was sometimes around when they were together. In fact, one of the women that Lonnie was harassing was his son’s Nanny, who he would bring to his motor home in the backyard and have sex with in exchange for drugs. Luckily, the nanny was able to get away from Lonnie when she quit her job. But other victims of The Grim Sleeper were not so lucky.
On August 10th, 1985, police discovered Debra Jackson’s body beneath an old rug on a Hollywood neighborhood street. She had been shot three times in the head, and was found in a pool of her own blood. There had been other execution-style murders happening in and around the Los Angeles area at the time of Debra’s death, and police couldn’t pin down a murderer. Debra’s case went cold for over 20 years. And hers wasn’t the only one. Police found the body of another woman, Henrietta Wright, just a year and two days after Debra Jackson’s death. Henrietta was found in a similar position with multiple gunshots to the chest and a gag in her mouth.
It was only a few months between Henrietta's death and the death of Barbara Ware, who died of multiple gunshot wounds in January of 1987 and was left in the streets in a similar manner. Two other women would be found dead that same year; one in April and one in November. Then, in 1988, the pattern continued, with one death in January of 1988 and another in September of 1988. Then, Lonnie hit a little snag.
Enietra Washington was walking on a LA street one night when Lonnie pulled up beside her in his orange Ford Pinto and asked if she wanted a ride. She refused initially, but eventually got in after Lonnie berated her. When she got in the car, Lonnie shot her with the same gun that was used to kill his other victims, then he raped her and pushed her out into the street, but not before taking a photograph, just like he did when he raped that German girl in 1975.
After Enietra’s escape, Lonnie seemingly stopped killing for a period for 14 years. It’s this hibernation that earned him the title “the grim sleeper”. But just as bears come out of their caves once winter ends, Lonnie re-emerged once more.
In March of 2002, police found the body of Princess Berthomieux, who had been missing since December of 2001. She had died from gunshot wounds and was dumped just like Lonnie’s previous victims from the 1980s. She was also covered in the same DNA as the original victims, as were the next two bodies that police discovered, one in 2003 and another in 2007.
Is it possible that Lonnie was really inactive between 1988 and 2002? Maybe. Or maybe he just switched tactics. Remember those pictures that Lonnie took of his victims? It turns out those weren’t the only photographs he took. Lonnie had a bit of a fetish for taking pictures of women in compromising positions. He would regularly solicit prostitutes, taking them into his van or motorhome where he would ask them to pose in dirty positions and take pictures, which he kept in an album and shared with his friends. When Lonnie was finally arrested for murder in 2010, the police searched his home and found over 500 pictures of 180 women that Lonnie had photographed for his twisted sexual pleasure. Many of the photos Lonnie took were polaroids or film photos, but as technology advanced, he also kept those pictures on his phone. As of March 30th of this year, 2020. 30 of the women from his image collection are still unaccounted for. They may very well be more of his victims.
Lonnie was arrested on July 7th 2010 after police collected his DNA off of a piece of pizza he ate at a child’s birthday party. Police had been trailing him for some time after they learned that the DNA they found on the bodies of his victims was a close match that of Lonnie’s son, Chris. All they needed to officially tie him to the case was his own DNA, which they retrieved after that party. In one of Lonnie’s hearings after being arrested, his defense tried to argue that the pizza evidence was inadmissible because Lonnie had thrown it out thinking it would be mixed with other people’s trash. But the judge wasn’t buying this argument, and the evidence did ultimately lead to his conviction.
There were many delays in his trial, and he wasn’t sentenced until 6 years later, in 2016. He was ultimately convicted of 10 counts of murder and sentenced to death, but just like Leonard Fraser, Lonnie died before his sentence could be carried out. He was pronounced dead on March 28th, 2020 at 7:43pm. A Saturday. Why does it matter that he died on a Saturday? Let’s move on to Lonnie’s astrology and see.
Lonnie Franklin was born on August 30th, 1952 in Los Angeles, California. He had a Virgo sun, and as long as he was born after 12:30AM, a Capricorn moon. I’m won’t go on and on about what I think is his birth time, but I’d go with either 7:30-ish in the morning, which gives him a virgo ascendant and a Capricorn moon in the 4th house, or sometime around Noon, which gives him a scorpio ascendant and puts his moon and his Chiron in the same degree in the 3rd house. I would also consider a time that gives Lonnie an Aries ascendant. Regardless of his birth time, there is a conjunction between the moon and Chiron, and that’s important for understanding his trauma.
It tells us that Lonnie had a lot of trouble expressing his emotions. The moon, which is feeling, flowing, and sensitive, is at its detriment in Capricorn, which is a rigid sign based in logic and rationality. Although the qualities of the moon and Capricorn are at odds with each other, this placement can present an opportunity to find balance between emotions and practicality. That’s the goal of opposites, actually, to find the balance between them. Add Chiron into the mix, though, and things get complicated.
The myth of Chiron is as follows: Chiron was a centaur, half man half horse, who tutored greek gods in ancient times. On one unfortunate day, Chiron found himself in the middle of a battle between gods and centaurs. One of his students, Hercules, was a key player in that battle, and was shooting arrows at the opposition to protect himself and Chiron. But one of Hercules arrows went rogue and accidentally hit Chiron in the knee. Now Chiron was immortal and in addition to being an astrologer, was an expert herbal healer. But in this case, he wasn’t able to heal himself, and it seemed he was destined to live the rest of his eternal life in anguish. The only way around this fate was to die; and he was granted this mercy by Zeus, king of the gods, who awarded him an honorable death and a place in the stars.
For modern day mortals living with the influence of Chiron in their charts, there are really two ways that the asteroid may express itself: an eternally wounded soul who fears death, or an enlightened soul who understands that there is a paradise beyond the pain, if you are brave enough to venture into the unknown. It seems to me that Lonnie was living as the eternal wounded Chiron: where expressing his emotions was the unknown that would lead to paradise, only he resisted it. Maybe this is why he acted out his frustrations in such a gruesome way: he didn’t know how to express them otherwise.
When Lonnie met a victim, she became an object that he could control, sexually and otherwise, and upon whom he could act out his bottled-up issues. I think it’s interesting that Lonnie’s Vertex, a point in the chart that represents people that come into your life, is in very close opposition to Lonnie’s Chiron. This means that people coming into his life were opportunities to either heal, or remain wounded. And he chose to remain wounded, using them as his pawn. **Special note: this only applies if Lonnie was born between 11:30AM and 1:00PM, since the Vertex is a very fast-moving point**
There are lots of other things I could say about this chart, but I want to focus for a minute on the fact that Lonnie’s sun was in Virgo. There’s video of one of Lonnie’s court appearances during which the prosecution is asking him how many times he’s committed various crimes like auto theft and assault. She asks him a string of questions…”how many times did you do this or that”, and he hesitates, taking a moment to think about his response, even though you can see in his eyes that he knows exactly how many times he’s been convicted of those crimes. I think this is very virgo, the analytical, perfectionistic sign ruled by mercury, the planet of communication. Lonnie took his time to answer the questions, paying attention to all aspects of his answer...not just the words he used but the way he said them and when. He took his time to communicate what he thought was the best answer for him. Seeing Lonnie in this video was proof to me that he knew exactly what he was doing each time he did it, and that makes me think of how he disposed of his bodies. It seems strange to think that a highly thoughtful person would leave his victims’ bodies in the middle of the street on 10 separate occasions. But virgo is about efficiency in addition to its other qualities, and virgos don’t like to waste time. I think he knew the culture of his city, the culture of the police, and the nature of other violent crimes going on in the area. Based on all this information, he didn’t feel he needed to bury the bodies. It just wasn’t efficient, plain and simple.
In addition to Lonnie’s Chiron, Moon, and Sun placements, there are two others that stand out to me: the first is Lonnie’s Saturn in Libra. You may remember that Lonnie strangled some of his victims before shooting them. He also strangled women during sex. Libra is an air sign and the sign of interpersonal balance, and I can’t help but see the correlation here between libra and other peoples’ air flow. Saturn can represent constraint and restriction...for Lonnie, Saturn in Libra literally meant restriction of someone else’s air flow.**Special note: Saturn in the 8th house would make sense for Lonnie, since the 8th rules intimate sexual connections**
So, I think it’s interesting that Lonnie died on a Saturday, because Saturday is ruled by Saturn who is sometimes called the Lord of Karma. I’m not sure of Lonnie’s official cause of death, but maybe it was karma. Anyway.
The last thing I’ll talk about today is the synastry between Lonnie’s chart and the charts for his place of birth, and criminal activity. As we know, Lonnie was born in Los Angeles, and I have to tell you, when I saw the synastry between his chart and the LA chart, I got chills. Lonnie was acting under the radar for a very long time, preying on victims who were all marginalized citizens of LA, and then leaving them covered in the same city for police to find. Lonnie’s Saturn and Neptune are in Libra, and they both fall in LA’s 12th house. As I mentioned before, Saturn is the planet of Karma, and remember, the 12th house is about the collective experience, which sometimes is hard to pin down. Lonnie was, in a sense, bringing these problems of injustice out in the open, and it was a matter of fate that he would get caught and ultimately force the city to grapple with these issues. The most constructive use of this horrible situation is for the city to learn from it. Unfortunately, this learning had to come from shocking violence, as Lonnie’s Uranus is in LA’s 9th house of ethics exactly opposite LA’s mars in the 3rd house. Now it just so happens that LA is a virgo sun, and the state of California is also a virgo sun, which is in the 11th house for both California and Los Angeles. It means that the state and the city both have a mission to work for their communities. Learning from these social issues and enacting change based on what people need is written in the stars for both entities. But it’s not just based on what some people need. The 11th house needs to tap into what the whole community needs, and this case brings to light the many needs that aren’t being met that need to be worked on. This mission is written in the stars for both LA and the state of California.
I want to examine Lonnie’s case in more depth, which I may do on Patreon in the future. Once that Patreon is up, I’ll let you know. But in the meantime, I’ll see you next time for another episode of Killer Astrology. Until then, Remember. People may lie, but the stars never do.
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