By Ashley Fantz, CNN

(CNN) -- Los Angeles police are saying they've arrested a serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper using familial DNA, or the comparison of one's unique genetic code with a relative's unique code.

Police say they found the man accused of killing 11 people -- in murders dating back to 1985 -- by comparing DNA found at some of the crime scenes with the DNA of the suspect's son, who was in a California lock-up. The son's DNA led them to the father, and police are sure they've solved the case.

Familial DNA is a controversial crime-solving method.

Proponents say it helps police identify suspects who wouldn't be on the radar of the police, people who have never been arrested.

Critics argue the use of familial DNA is a violation of privacy. They contend that relying on that type of testing can bring scrutiny to innocent people simply because they are related to a suspect.

Defenders say it's a tool that can point police in the right direction.

"Familial DNA testing is a solid first step grounded in biology, statistics and genetics that leads you to a suspect which traditional investigative work can seal," said Mitch Morrissey, the district attorney of Denver, Colorado, and a nationally outspoken proponent of familial searches.

On Wednesday, LAPD announced it had arrested the man they believe is the Grim Sleeper, 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr.

The serial killer was nicknamed the "Grim Sleeper" because of a 12-year break between murders -- and then began to kill again.

The killer left his DNA either on victims' bodies or at the scene itself.

In 2009, LAPD Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, who led a special unit assigned to find the Grim Sleeper, expressed frustration with knowing who the killer was, but only in a language of numbers and dashes.

"We've got this beautiful DNA profile -- all these dashes and dots, and this and that, but there's no name to go with it," Kilcoyne said. For years, the detectives followed leads the traditional way.

Then, in 2008, California Attorney General Jerry Brown approved running familial searches through the state's DNA databank, the third-largest in the world with 1.5 million genetic fingerprints of state felons.

Then, last month, police said they found Franklin by running a random comparison search throughout the California prison system, which keeps prisoners' DNA. That search led detectives to Franklin's son Christopher, who had been convicted on a weapons charge.

"Here was a scenario where you had science and old-fashioned police work solving a crime," said Morrissey.

For the past several years, he has publicly urged the FBI to expand its capacity to search for familial matching in its Combined DNA Index System.

CODIS, as it's commonly known, contains more than 8.3 million offender profiles and 319,601 forensic profiles as of May, the FBI's website said.

The FBI has resisted collecting familial DNA, as have states except for California and Colorado, because there is fear that there would be a backlash by civil rights groups over privacy, said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at Georgetown University Law School.

Rosen wrote a comprehensive examination of the issue for Slate, the online newsmagazine. He explains the FBI is concerned that if it began collecting familial DNA from arrestees, the backlash could jeopardize its efforts to keep DNA samples from convicted felons.

Rosen says California is now being challenged in court for obtaining and testing familial DNA from people who are arrested.

"The state is really pushing the envelope legally," he said. "If you're convicted, then there's an understanding that you have limited your rights to privacy. To merely be arrested, some argue you should be able to maintain that privacy.

"The legal side of the issue is interesting, but it's paramount to keep in mind that familial DNA is not a panacea to solving crime. It very rarely leads to solving cases," said Rosen.

"You can consider the success rate in Great Britain, a country that is, worldwide, a leader in this method of investigation."

The European Court of Human Rights has maintained that keeping the DNA of people who are merely arrested is a violation of privacy, said Rosen.

Since 2004, British authorities have conducted dozens of investigations using familial DNA -- at least 70 searches, yielding 18 matches and 13 convictions. According to Rosen, the success rate is estimated around 10 percent.

"That's a low number, but when you're talking about violent cases or high-profile cases, any match is a worthwhile effort," said Hank Greely, a Stanford University Law School professor. Greely is considered a national expert on the ethical implication of DNA testing.

He points to a fiery controversy concerning familial testing -- racial profiling.

The CODIS databank is disproportionately filled with African-Americans, said Greely.

"Race is a big issue; it's a legitimate question to address, and it's a troubling fact," he said. "We can talk all day long about why it is that more African-Americans are arrested, but the fact is that the database reflects that. Inevitably that means familial DNA matching will net more African-Americans than any other group of people.

"This a very hot conversation to be having," he said. "And I'm sure this Grim Sleeper case is only going to bring that on like we've never experienced it before in California."


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I gotta tell you .... I've got major ... MAJOR problems with this!! 

You can't get more personal .. nor PRIVATE than your own DNA.

And, IMO, no one should have access to that information without your permission.  And they damn sure shouldn't be able to use it against someone else!!!

What the hell is going on??   
  The thing is...they have been looking for this killer for years-25 to be exact.  They already had his DNA from the victims he killed but he wasn't in the DNA data base.  When they swab his son as a matter of law[for a felony] and put it in the data base, they were SURPRISED that was a relative match....meaning not him but some male in his family.  Bingo for the victims' families who've had to MAKE LAPD reopen the cases....cuz they were sitting on their asses [even when a victim(who got away) showed them the very house] cuz it was black women being killed[and one black man] and NOT white women.  You know if it were 10 white women being murdered in a particular area(they were all killed around the same location) ....they would NOT rest until the killer was caught.  All the women were either crack heads or prositutes.  So you know home boy had a problem with a certain kind of women.  Now they are saying he may have killed even more folks[they found weapons in his house and are now investigating his backyard filled with all kinds of junk). Although he's been in jail off and on...only for petty crimes. The law for mandatory DNA for  felony criminals passed around 2004.  Due to his numerous misdemeanors, his info didn't qualify to be placed in the data base....and that was how he eluded them for such a long time.  I am soooooooooooo happy for the family.  Now they can find some form of closure.  My son's murderer is STILL out there.  Had my son been white, I'm sure the killers would be doing time by now....but!  I'm just sayin
Last edited by Kocolicious
ashame. The first article I googled about this case came from Scotland. But its pretty good and gives details about how this guy was caught with DNA. He looks totally emotionless.

Arrest in Grim Sleeper case leads to new row over family DNA tests

11 Jul 2010

The ethical limits of DNA ­profiling are being tested in California, ­following an arrest in a ­notorious serial-killer case.

The ­suspect, Lonnie David Franklin, came to the attention of police when his son ­Christopher’s genetic profile – taken when Christopher was convicted on gun charges – partially matched saliva found on the bodies of dead prostitutes.

Detectives kept Franklin under surveillance for a week, eventually collecting a sample of his DNA from a discarded pizza crust. When the ­laboratory results came back, he was picked up and charged with 10 counts of murder.

Police believe Franklin is the “Grim Sleeper”, a serial killer given the name because of the decade-long gap between his two killing sprees, the first of which began in the late 1980s.

Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck described it as “a landmark case … that will change the way policing is done in the United States”. However, the computer software that can detect possible father-son and sibling matches is currently used only in California and Colorado, and a court case ­challenging its application is due to be heard

He was a nice guy, but he was a freaky old man. He said he’d get women to do strange things in strange places with him
<cite style="font-size: 12px;">Franklin’s neighbour Francis Williams</cite>

next week.

Jerry Brown, California’s Attorney General, attributed the arrest to the DNA-search programme he introduced two years ago. While he ­recognises that it remains a ­controversial technique, he believes it is an important one. “We’re in the midst of very powerful new ­technology and legal battles to make sure we can use it,” he said. “We’re protecting people’s privacy and we’re going to fight to protect this technology.”

Civil-liberties groups are concerned that the extensive use of family DNA testing will lead to even greater racial disparities in the criminal justice system, which imprisons vastly more African-American men than any other group.

In Scotland, the DNA of anyone convicted of even a minor offence can be kept on file for life. In England and Wales, the database is even more extensive, as police have the right to take swabs from everyone they arrest. Under the 2010 Crime And Security Act, the DNA records and fingerprints of innocent people can be retained for six years.

On top of the DNA-testing ­controversy, the Los Angeles police department faces questions about how the killer was able to remain active for so long. The Grim ­Sleeper’s victims were mostly women living on the margins of society, working as prostitutes or addicted to drugs. Their bodies were all found in alleys and rubbish tips along the same stretch of Western Avenue in South Los Angeles. Ballistics tests showed they were shot with the same .25 calibre pistol – but police never informed the ­community that a serial killer was at large.

Inner-city Los Angeles was a brutal place in the late 1980s, plagued by widespread crack cocaine use. Violent confrontations between police officers and gangs were commonplace, and so many bodies were being dumped by the roadside that police speculated several serial killers were at work simultaneously.

A group called the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders protested that the killing of African-American women scarcely received any attention or police resources. “The low-profile media coverage and problems with the investigation are all examples of women’s lives not counting, and black prostitute women counting least of all,” said founder Margaret Prescod.

Detectives in the Grim Sleeper case had one survivor’s testimony to go on. The woman described a well-groomed black man driving an orange Ford Pinto with a racing stripe on the bonnet. After offering her a lift, he shot her in the chest, sexually assaulted her, took her picture and left her for dead.

By this point – November 1988 – the serial killer was believed to have murdered at least seven women, but something apparently persuaded him to stop for more than a decade.

In 2001, Los Angeles detectives began to apply new forensic-science ­techniques to unsolved murders. They were surprised to find DNA linking the killer of a teenage runaway, Princess Berthomieux, to the old crime scenes on Western Avenue. However, they kept this knowledge to themselves, even when another corpse, that of Valerie McCorvey, was discovered a year later. A dedicated task force to catch the Grim Sleeper was set up only in 2007.

Following his arrest, Franklin was described by neighbours as a ­courteous man who looked out for the poorest people in his neighbourhood. He occasionally sold stolen ­electrical goods, and would mend cars using spare parts of uncertain provenance. His marriage was an on-off relationship but he was said to be a devoted father to his two children.

His house on West 81st Street was less than 200 metres from Western Avenue, and for years he drove an orange Ford Pinto with a racing stripe. He was known to regularly visit prostitutes.

“He was a nice guy, but he was a freaky old man,” his neighbour ­Francis Williams told the LA Times. “He said he’d get women to do strange things in strange places with him.”

A search of Franklin’s home turned up several firearms.

The Grim Sleeper may yet turn out to be an inaccurate nickname, if more crimes are attributed to the same killer during the years he was presumed dormant. Police are investigating 30 unsolved murders in which no usable DNA samples were collected, and are looking for similarities.

“I believe we will find additional victims,” said Chief Beck.

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