Did you know that the number of murders in Los Angeles County has dropped nearly 75% since the early 90’s? In fact, more than half of the homicides in L.A. went unsolved until the early 2000s. That’s a lot of killers that got away with murder.
That’s why being a crime reporter in a city where so many crimes aren’t solved can be an exhausting and unrewarding job. At least that’s how Christine Pelisek felt when she was working at L.A. Weekly in 2006, until the day came when she picked up on something that would change history in the crime-ridden city.
Christine Pelisek was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and knew she wanted to be a writer and successful journalist in a big city. When she moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s she quickly learned that you had work your way all the way up from the bottom to get there.
Becoming A Reality
Christine, who formerly worked on local stories at a news desk at the Ottawa Sun, soon found herself writing about the mass amounts of misconduct in the crime-ridden metropolis. She was shocked to learn that the city was decorated with as many unsolved murders as it was palm trees…
In fact, the young reporter was stunned to find out that at one point in history there were six different serial killers acting within the city limits at the same time. There was certainly never a dull moment or lack of stories to write about for Los Angeles’ crime detectives.
After Christine found herself moving up the ever-growing journalism ladder, she would frequent a place that no one wanted to visit on a regular basis. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office was made famous by Michael Jackson’s untimely death, but for Christine, it was just another stop in the day. And over time, she began to pick up on something peculiar…
Christine was constantly investigating and covering gang murders and organized crime hits, but what she really wondered about was the number of suspicious deaths over the years. On a cold winter day in 2006, she was stunned to learn that the coroner had collected information on exactly what she was looking for.
There were over 38 different women who were killed by horrific means and bodies were dumped and hidden throughout the city. Many of them were struggling with drug addictions and turned up dead in the seedy South Central area. All of their murders, still unsolved…
Some of the women were strangled, stabbed, or shot to death and others were beaten so badly that they were unable to be identified. Christine knew she had to do some research of her own and try to make some connections in the unsolved murders.
Pelisek learned from a detective that there was DNA evidence linked to two murders from the 1980s. A foster care runaway and a 35-year-old mother, along with seven other unsolved slayings around that time. All the women’s bodies were left in back alleys or hidden under garbage and old mattresses, but what they all had in common was that they were African Americans….
No One Cares?
When a young, blonde woman went missing, the media would be up in arms, but when dozens of poor, black women disappeared, barely anyone took notice. It was sad but true. One L.A. homicide detective even told Pelisek, “The obvious difficulty in working these cases was that no one cares.”
Therefore, the cops would move on to the next murder investigation and fail to miss the obvious connection with all of the open homicide cases. Luckily, Christine Pelisek did care and started tirelessly pursuing links among the victims and interviewing those closest to them.
Lighting A Fire
Finally, in 2008, after nearly two long years of endless research and investigations, the L.A. Weekly crime reporter finally broke the story that shook the West Coast: L.A. had a serial killer on the loose. Pelisek’s work finally caught LAPD detectives’ attention and lit a fire where they needed it most.
“The Grim Sleeper”
Christine and her editor nicknamed the killer “The Grim Sleeper” after his apparent 14-year killing hiatus from the 1980’s to the early 2000s. Although she couldn’t exactly pinpoint who this deadly, mysterious person was, she knew he was a male and that he was still out there…
In Plain Sight
The information Christine Pelisek had collected on the cold-blooded killer was enough for cops to follow the leads. They then started to eye someone who could have easily hidden in plain sight over the course of decades. As a 58-year-old former mechanic for the LAPD and city sanitation worker, this person could easily be able to pull off the unthinkable and get away with murder.
In Plain Sight
Thanks to Pelisek’s hard work, interviewing 100’s of people over the course of four years, and cutting-edge DNA technology, a local father and husband, Lonnie Franklin Jr., was arrested in 2010. However, they still had to prove he had the hands behind at least 10 different murders over the last two decades…
She Got Away
Most of the women were found in their bras and underwear, with identification still on them. Through Pelisek’s research, detectives were able to interview a victim of “The Grim Sleeper” who claimed she was able to get away from him 27 years earlier.
Lonnie Franklin showed no emotion as he blankly stared out at the courtroom, listening to survivor Enietra Washington recount the night he nearly killed her. Washington testified that Franklin shot her, sexually assaulted her, and took a Polaroid picture of her before pushing her out of his car, leaving her to die 27 years earlier.
“I am one of your living victims,” Washington told Franklin. “I really think you are truly a piece of evil. You are right up there with Manson. You are Satan’s representative.” Laura Moorer, who was shot by Franklin four times and survived, asked her would-be killer, “I just want to know why?”.
Seventeen different family members of victims of the Grim Sleeper also testified against an unforgiving Lonnie Franklin Jr., sharing the agony his senseless, random murders caused them. “It is obvious you have a deep-seeded hatred for women that started long ago,” said Los Angeles superior court judge Kathleen Kennedy. “Why? I don’t know.”
Franklin was found guilty of at least 10 murders spanning over 22 years in 2016. Judge Kennedy announced to a grateful court that Lonnie Franklin Jr. would be ordered the death penalty by the State of California for the gruesome killings. However, he might still be on the street murdering innocent women if it weren’t for Christine Pelisek’s expert investigation and reporting.
At first, Pelisek made more enemies than friends by pursuing the connections with the Grim Sleeper’s victims, but over time, she became a voice for these women who justice was ignored. In 2014, Pelisek wrote a book titled: The Grim Sleeper, about tracking down this evil murderer that was released to much acclaim during his trial. Today, she works as Senior Writer for PEOPLE, working on the show People Magazine Investigates on Investigation Discovery.