For all of its celebrity allure as the next-to-last resting place for pop star Michael Jackson, the Los Angeles County coroner's office is located along a run down row of auto body shops. As a crime reporter for the L.A. Weekly, I had been there many times before, covering everything from gang murders to robberies gone awry to organized crime hits.
But on that chilly winter day in 2006, a coroner source told me his office had compiled a list of 38 suspicious deaths of women over the past four years. Some of the victims were found in dumpsters and alleyways across Los Angeles County. Most were strangled, shot, or stabbed. Some had been beaten so badly they were barely recognizable.
In each of those cases, all of the victims' bodies had been dumped in dirty back alleys, hidden under mattresses and trash. All were black. It appeared they had been killed by the same person – my editor and I later nicknamed the killer the "Grim Sleeper" in recognition of the apparent 14-year hiatus between crimes. The Grim Sleeper was still at large.
For more on reporter Christine Pelisek's central role in uncovering details of the shocking Grim Sleeper case, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday
AP Pool / Nick Ut,Pool
There were a lot of strange twists along the way until the LAPD, using cutting edge DNA technology, apprehended suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr.. Franklin is now on trial in a Los Angeles courtroom for the murders of 10 women and the attempted murder of another.