Franklin, 67, was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison on Saturday evening, officials said in a statement. An autopsy will be performed to determine his cause of death, but officials say his body showed no signs of trauma.
Franklin preyed upon vulnerable women in South Los Angeles over two decades, killing at least 14 women and as many as 25, according to police. He earned the “Grim Sleeper” moniker for seemingly putting his killing streak on hiatus through the 1990s, only to go back to murdering people in the early 2000s. He was also a longtime garbage collector who briefly worked as a garage attendant for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Franklin killed most of his victims with a gunshot at short range, although he was found to have strangled two of them. He would dump their bodies in alleyways or garbage bins.
Critics had accused police of dragging their heels on the unsolved murders because many of Franklin’s victims were impoverished black sex workers who were struggling with substance abuse issues.
Police ultimately arrested Franklin in 2010 after linking him to the crimes using DNA evidence obtained from his son. Authorities found photos and videos of approximately 180 women at his home.
He was sentenced to death in 2016 for killing nine women and one teenage girl in South Los Angeles between 1985 and 2007, and for one count of attempted murder. Franklin was also linked at trial to four other murders for which he was not charged.
California has had the death penalty since 1978, but the vast majority of death row inmates die from causes other than execution, prison officials said. Fifteen prisoners have been executed since ’78, while 131 have died of other (mostly natural) causes.
The state has not executed anyone since 2006, and there are now 727 inmates on death row.
Victim Barbara Ware’s stepmother shared her reaction to Franklin’s death with People over the weekend.
“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,” Diana Ware said.
“We can now be at peace.”
— With files from the Associated Press