Los Angeles

‘Happy-Go-Lucky Guy': Residents in Disbelief That Neighbor Accused of ‘Grim Sleeper' Murders

Many told NBC4 they couldn't believe he was accused in the string of murders.

As the trial of suspected "Grim Sleeper" serial killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr. got underway Tuesday, neighbors who live in the same South Los Angeles neighborhood as the man accused of slaying nine women and one 15-year-old over two decades are shocked, saying they could never imagine he would do anything remotely like this.

"He was a happy-go-lucky guy," Fernando Cole, who lived across the street from 63-year-old Franklin near 81st Street and Harvard Boulevard.

Many others who live nearby reflected the sentiment, in disbelief that Franklin could have killed women and dumped their bodies in alleys and trash bins around Southern California.

Rosie Hunter lived down the street from Franklin when she was 10 or 11 years old. All she remembers is a neighborhood mechanic always helping people.

"You never know who your neighbors are. He was a nice guy," Hunter said.

The gruesome murders began in 1985. Because the suspected killer took a 13-year break in between slayings, he has been called the "Grim Sleeper."

During the 30 years Cole has known Franklin, he said he never saw signs of a man capable of murder. As he sees Franklin in jail, he says he's angry about the fact.

"I'm sad about it," Cole said.

But not everyone in the neighborhood doubts his guilt. The trial has the neighborhood divided.

"People knew him on personal level," Hunter said. "It's kind of hard to accept. Big time denial."

DNA evidence has linked Franklin to the killings.

Many of the victims were found along the South LA corridor near Western Avenue. The killings terrorized the community, forcing many to leave the neighborhood where Franklin lived.

"Most of the people living here when I moved here 4 years ago were moving out at the time," Karen Jones said.

Some residents even doubt prosecutors have the "right guy."

"If he did do it, God have mercy on his soul," Cole said. 

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