After spending a decade in prison, including four years on death row, Lonnie Franklin Jr. was found dead in his San Quentin State Prison cell on Saturday (March 28), CNN reports. The cause of death is still unknown. Franklin was 67.
In July 2010, Franklin was arrested for the deaths of 10 people, the majority being women, in South Los Angeles in the 80s. The convicted serial killer preyed on women, sexually and physically assaulting them before taking their lives. Diana Ware, who was the stepmother of victim Barbara Ware, told PEOPLE that she’s shocked at Franklin’s death but “I won’t say I’m pleased he died but at the end there was justice for all the bad things he did in his life. We can now be at peace.”
Terry Thornton, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s spokesperson, said while no signs of trauma were apparent, “they don’t know why he died.” An autopsy report will be conducted by the coroner’s office in Marin County.
In 2016, a court sentenced Franklin to death for his crimes as he faced several first-degree murder charges and an attempted murder charge. His youngest victim was a 15-year-old girl named Princess Berthomieux.
Franklin’s DNA was taken by an undercover officer who acted as a waiter at a pizzeria that the convicted murderer frequented. The officer was able to take a DNA sample from a pizza crust that Franklin didn’t finish, leading investigators to finally find a match and connection to the previous deaths. Investigators noticed Franklin was arrested in 2003 for a felony charge, but no DNA was collected at that time. It wasn’t until a year later that Proposition 69 was passed which mandates DNA to be collected from those that get arrested. Franklin’s arrest for the string of murders also came way of “familial DNA analysis.” The ex-sanitation worker’s son was arrested and charged for felony weapons possession and when his DNA was taken, it showed similar strains to the saliva found on the victims’ bodies. Authorities gathered enough sufficient evidence to arrest and charge Franklin.