The “Grim Sleeper” had been terrorizing certain South Los Angeles neighborhoods from the mid-1980s until 2010. His victims were all young black women. It wasn’t until the introduction of DNA testing technology in the late-2000s that the LAPD was able to connect a string of murders to one person, and then find said person, based on a partially-eaten slice of pizza.
Vice reports two sides as to why the LAPD didn’t catch the Grim Sleeper sooner, as he has the dubious achievement of being the longest active serial killer in the state of California. Some say that the LAPD didn’t follow up leads soon enough because it regarded the victims–disenfranchised black women–as insignificant. The LAPD says that it was difficult to separate a serial killer from other violence going in South LA during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic.
Police finally caught the killer in 2010, after California adopted a searchable DNA database that would link family members of a convicted offender with DNA taken from crimes scenes. In 2009, Lonnie David Franklin, Jr.’s son was arrested, and his DNA was sent to the state database. It matched the DNA from the Grim Sleeper crime scenes, implicating Franklin himself.
This is where the pizza comes in:
On July 5, 2010, two LAPD detectives keeping tabs on Franklin saw him head into Buena Park restaurant called John’s Incredible Pizza for a kid’s birthday party, according to court documents. One of the detectives donned a restaurant uniform, posed as an employee, and collected napkins, glasses, a fork, and a partially-eaten slice of pizza from Franklin. DNA evidence from these items clinched the cops’ case, and two days later they arrested Franklin.
Unfortunately, pre-trial delays have allowed this case to drag on for five years before finally going to trial on February 16. No matter how good pizza is at catching a serial killer, it can’t solve the many problems with the American criminal justice system.