Prosecution charts predatory trail of 'Grim Sleeper' killer

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Trial Begins for 'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer
LOS ANGELES, Feb 16 (Reuters) - An ex-sanitation worker charged with 10 murders dating back 30 years began preying on his victims, mostly prostitutes with drug addictions, during a crack epidemic that proved fertile ground for a Los Angeles serial killer in the 1980s, prosecutors told jurors on Tuesday.

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Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman charted the course of the slayings, and the gritty environment in which they occurred, in opening statements at the trial of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., accused of being a mass murderer dubbed the "Grim Sleeper."

The 63-year-old defendant, who has been jailed since his 2010 arrest, has pleaded not guilty, but could face the death penalty if convicted in the case, which hinges largely on DNA and firearms evidence.

Franklin stands charged with murder in the shooting deaths of seven women between August 1985 and September 1988, and the strangulation deaths of a 15-year-old girl and two other women when the killings resumed between March 2002 and January 2007.

Franklin has also been charged with attempted murder in an attack on an 11th victim, who was shot in the chest, raped and pushed out of a car and left for dead in 1988. Silverman declined to say for certain whether she would be called as a witness, telling jurors her memories have faded in the intervening decades.

See photos related to the case:

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Lonnie Franklin Jr., Grim Sleeper serial killer
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Prosecution charts predatory trail of 'Grim Sleeper' killer
Suspected killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr., dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' for a 13-year break between his strings of 11 murders, is pictured during his arraignment in Los Angeles Criminal Courts on July 8, 2010. Franklin, 57, was arrested at his home in southern Los Angeles on July 7, 2010 on suspicion of being 'related' to the Grim Sleeper killings -- eight from 1985-1988 and three from 2001-2007. AFP PHOTO / Pool / Al Seib (Photo credit should read AL SEIB/AFP/Getty Images)
Diana Ware , step-mother of Barbara Ware, stands near the South Los Angeles home of Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. on July 7, 2010. Franklin was arrested Wednesday on 10 counts of murder and one attempted murder. Police allege that he is the Grim Sleeper serial killer. Diana's step-daughter, Barabara Ware, 23, was the serial killer's 4th victim in January, 1987 2 days after her 23rd birthday. (Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Items are removed from the South Los Angeles home of Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. on July 7, 2010. Franklin was arrested Wednesday on 10 counts of murder and one attempted murder. Police allege that he is the Grim Sleeper serial killer. (Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LAPD detective Dennis Kilcoyne, lead detective in the Grim Sleeper serial murder case, stands above an age progression of mug shots showing Lonnie David Franklin Jr, a.k.a. the Grim Sleeper. (Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Diana Ware, 71, still mourns the murder of her stepdaughter Barbara Ware who was believed to have been murdered by 'Grim Sleeper' serial murder suspect Lonnie David Franklin Jr. on January 10, 1987. Ware lives in West Covina now with her son Rick Frederick JUNE 16, 2010 (Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
JULY 13, 2010. LONG BEACH, CA. In her Long Beach, CA apartment, Romy L. Lampkins (right) listens to LAWeekly crime reporter Christine Pelisek talk about the victims of serial killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr. Pelisek has been covering the long-running crime mystery for many years; Lampkins 21-yr-old sister Lachrica Jefferson was kiled by Franklin in 1988. The suspect has been arraigned on 10 counts of murder in the Los Angeles area between 1985 - 2007. (Photo by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A woman views photographs set up as a memorial for 10 of the victims of the serial killer dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' who is currently awaiting trial in Los Angeles on August 10, 2010. Lonnie David Franklin Jr, 57, was recently arrested at his home in southern Los Angeles on suspicion of being 'related' to the Grim Sleeper killings and has now been charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. The murders occurred from 1985 to 1988, and then began again from 2002 to 2007 and the 14-year hiatus led police to give him the nickname the 'Grim Sleeper.' AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Reverend Dr. Kelvin Calloway, who is from a church close to the crime scenes, leaves a message on photographs set up as a memorial for 10 of the victims of the serial killer dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' who is currently awaiting trial in Los Angeles on August 10, 2010. Lonnie David Franklin Jr, 57, was recently arrested at his home in southern Los Angeles on suspicion of being 'related' to the Grim Sleeper killings and has now been charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. The murders occurred from 1985 to 1988, and then began again from 2002 to 2007 and the 14-year hiatus led police to give him the nickname the 'Grim Sleeper.' AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Lonnie Franklin Jr. is led out from L.A. County Superior Courtroom of Judge Kathleen Kennedy after a hearing February 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Franklin is charged with murdering 10 women and suspected of killing several others in Los Angeles. Families of Franklin's alleged victims cited Marsy's Law, a bill of rights approved by California voters in 2008, entitling victims and their families to a speedy trial. Family members expressed their frustration with the pace of the case of the alleged Grim Sleeper serial killer, charged with murdering 10 women and suspected of killing several others. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-CRIME-MURDER(FILES) A woman views photographs set up as a memorial for 10 of the victims of the serial killer dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' who is currently awaiting trial in Los Angeles on August 10, 2010. Photographs of about 180 women seized from the home of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., were posted online December 17, 2010 by the Los Angeles Police Department to determine whether any of them may have been victims. The photographs were found at Franklin's home after he was arrested July 8 on suspicion of killing at least 10 young women and one man in South Los Angeles between 1985 and 2007. Fraklin was dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' for a 13-year break between his strings of 11 murders. FILESAFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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The gap of more than 13 years between the two spates of killings earned the suspected killer the "Grim Sleeper" moniker. But Silverman said DNA evidence collected from the victims' bodies would show that all 10 had sexual contact with Franklin just prior to their deaths.

Their bodies were found dumped in alleys and trash bins in South Los Angeles, an area gripped by rampant drug abuse, prostitution and other crime at the height of a crack cocaine epidemic that engulfed impoverished neighborhoods during the 1980s.

"It was a perfect place and time for a serial killer to roam the streets of Los Angeles," Silverman told the jurors.

The defense declined without explanation to present an opening statement before prosecutors began to call their first witnesses.

Since the March 2011 indictment against him, police said they had evidence linking Franklin to at least six more slayings, some of which took place during the previously presumed lapse in killings.

But authorities opted not to seeking additional charges against Franklin in order to avoid slowing down his prosecution.

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