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Why didn't authorities have DNA for Lonnie Franklin Jr.? Opportunity was missed under new law [Updated]

Photo: Lonnie Franklin Jr., Credit: LAPD

In the last several days, a number of Homicide Report readers have asked why Lonnie David Franklin Jr.'s DNA was not in California's criminal offender DNA database, given his extensive criminal history.

Although Franklin’s arrests included charges of car theft, burglary, receiving stolen property, assaults, firearms possession and other crimes, none met the threshold required at the time for authorities to acquire his DNA. In 2004, voters approved a measure that required DNA be taken from every person convicted of a felony. But Franklin's most recent conviction was a year prior to the change in the law.

[Updated July 14: Times staff writer Jack Leonard reported Wednesday that authorities missed an opportunity to find Franklin before the final known victim of the Grim Sleeper was killed in January 2007. 

Because Franklin was on probation for a felony when voters approved Proposition 69, his genetic profile was supposed to be added to the state’s DNA data bank of offenders, according to interviews and records reviewed by The Times.

The Los Angeles County Probation Department was given the task of obtaining DNA samples from tens of thousands of local offenders who were on probation when the law went into effect in November 2004. But by the time the agency began collecting DNA the following August, Franklin was no longer under its supervision.

So when authorities did a DNA sweep of state prisons in 2008 using DNA taken from victims of the Grim Sleeper, the search failed to come up with a match of the killer or anyone related to him.]

More recently, using a process called familial DNA searching, authorities found a close match to the suspected serial killer’s DNA in a man too young to have committed all the crimes. Scientists use familial DNA searches to look for DNA similar enough to be a possible relative of a suspect. In this case, DNA taken from Franklin’s son, who had been convicted on a felony weapons charge, led authorities to look closer at his father.

-- Sarah Ardalani

Read more: "Police missed a chance to catch Grim Sleeper suspect," Grim Sleeper suspect stayed below LAPD's radar" and "In Grim Sleeper case, a new tack in DNA searching"

Photo: Lonnie David Franklin Jr. Credit: Los Angeles Police Department

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