California’s Familial DNA Search Program Identifies Suspected “Grim Sleeper” Serial Killer

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced today that California’s ground-breaking familial DNA search program — enacted in April 2008 — led to the identification and arrest of the man accused of being the “Grim Sleeper” serial murderer.

“This arrest provides proof positive that familial DNA searches must be a part of law enforcement’s crime-fighting arsenal. Although the adoption of this new state policy was unprecedented and controversial, in certain cases, it is the only way to bring a dangerous killer to justice,” Brown said.

“This is an extraordinary piece of detective work accomplished by our skilled forensics team at the Department of Justice,” Brown added.

Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., 57, was arrested this morning by Los Angeles police, and the Los Angeles District Attorney planned to charge him later today with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, all with special circumstances.

The suspect would still be at large except for a controversial policy change Brown pushed through, over concerted opposition, that allowed familial DNA searches where there is great risk to public safety. California is the first state to use familial searches, and today’s arrest is proof that the new technique works.

The familial search process involves using the DNA of family members to find suspects through the state’s DNA Data Bank. Last year, the DNA of one of Franklin’s family members, who had been convicted of a felony weapons charge, was entered into the DNA Data Bank. Last month, a familial search was conducted, and late last month, investigators established a familial connection between the family member and DNA collected at the murder scenes. That connection was used to identify and arrest Franklin after his DNA was obtained.

Familial DNA searches are done rarely – and only under rigorous guidelines established by Brown. They are only allowed in major violent crimes when there is a serious risk to public safety and all other investigative leads have been exhausted.

Brown will reveal more details tomorrow at a press conference in Los Angeles.

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