When a serial killer eludes capture for the better part of three decades, it’s usually because of careful preparation, elusive tactics, and near-perfect execution, but that is not the case when it comes to Lonnie Franklin Jr., the subject of HBO’s newest documentary Tales of the Grim Sleeper (premieres tomorrow, April 27, at 9 p.m. EST). In order to fully comprehend how Lonnie’s sexual crimes and murders (which include at least ten women and could be as many as 100) would go uncaught for 25 years, a better understanding of the surrounding factors is needed – something wonderfully flushed out by the documentary’s director Nick Broomfield.
Lonnie lived in South Los Angeles – an area where less than 50% of its population graduates high school, and drug use is so rampant, that the industry employs more people than Xerox, AT&T, and IBM combined. Like many other drug-ridden areas, South L.A is saturated with prostitution, with women of all ages loitering on street corners looking to make a quick buck. For Lonnie, these women's dependence on drugs made them easy targets. He capitalized on their desparation by throwing around the money he acquired from dealing stolen goods. If you ever needed anything – a television, electronics, even a car – all you had to do was ask Lonnie, and he’d have it for you in a few days. Theft is one thing, but murder is a completely different beast, and when Lonnie was finally arrested in 2010, his friends assumed he’d been caught stealing cars. When news came out that he was a serial killer, dubbed “The Grim Sleeper,” Lonnie’s friends simply refused to believe that it was possible, going as far as to harass and insult Broomfield while he was gleaning the neighborhood for bits of information.