Israel Keyes, Sam Little, & Lonnie Franklin Jr.


On the face of it, the three names that title this blog post aren’t scary. You may not be familiar with any of the three. Or you may know one or two of them. Most likely, if you know one of them, you know the name Sam Little, although I’m finding more and more publicity surrounding Israel Keyes. Male serial killers get all the headlines and books written about them, so I won’t write a blog post about each of these three. But I do want to mention them a bit, because it’s important.

Recently, I commented that less than 5% of Americans realize there are still serial killers running around the US. I have decided I agree with Michelle McNamara, it’s about branding. When she renamed the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker the Golden State Killer, he suddenly got more press. And we do remember the serial killers with monikers more than the ones with just given names…. except for one on this list, but he’s special for another reason.

We’ll start with Israel Keyes, because he’s the most recent of the three. In 2012, in Anchorage, Alaska, high schooler Samantha Koenig was working the evening shift at a roadside coffee hut when she disappeared. After months of tracking, planing, and following, a man was pulled over in Texas, after he used Samantha’s debit card. That man was 34 year old Israel Keyes. Months earlier, he had abducted Samantha from the coffee hut, killed her, cut her up, and disposed of her in one of Alaska’s many lakes. Normally, I’d tell you how many people he confessed to killing, but Keyes was a weird dude, even for a serial killer. He confessed to eight, he hinted to hundreds. Police confirmed just three. Although he is suspected in murders in New York, Alaska, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and the Carolinas. Keyes commited suicide while in custody at the jail in Anchorage. If you want more info, I recommend the book American Predator.

Next, comes the killer that should have a scary name, but doesn’t: Sam Little. Sam Little killed for more than 30 years. With his killings starting in 1970 and ending in 2005 (oddly his active dates overlap Lonnie Franklin Jr’s). He is most likely the most prolific serial killer in US history. He was convicted of 8 murders. He has been linked to more than 60 and he confessed to 90. Being linked to 60 murders, links Little to more murders than that of the Green River Killer; Gary Ridgway (who was considered the most prolific serial killer in US history until Sam Little was caught). Two interesting facts about Little; Little is a light skinned African-American man and he was a nomad. He traveled for most of the time he was killing,which helped him stay undetected. I point out he’s African-American, because the overwhelming majority of serial killers are white and because Little didn’t stick to killing within his own ethnicity like most serial killers (white men, tend to kill white people… African-Americans tend to kill African-Americans, etc, etc). Little was arrested in 2004 and convicted in 2005.

Lonnie Franklin Jr. is the only one on the list with a nickname. He is the Grim Sleeper of Los Angeles. Franklin began killing women in central Los Angeles in 1985. He continued to kill until 2005. In 2010, DNA evidence proved him to be the notorious Grim Sleeper serial killer. This is important, because Franklin (who is African-American) was preying on African-American women in LA. However, there were at least two other serial killers dumping bodies in the same area as the Grim Sleeper. Although those victims were white and Franklin could not be connected to them in anyway. Interestingly, Franklin is actually the first serial killer where familial DNA was used to limit the suspect pool. In a twist, Franklin’s DNA should have been collected and entered in the California DNA database of all people convicted of a felony in 2005. However, it would take one of Franklin’s relatives being arrested and their DNA being entered into the database before Franklin would become a suspect. His trial didn’t conclude until 2016, making it one of the longest criminal trials in the history of the US.

As a side note, the Green River Killer (Gary Ridgway) was captured in 2001. Little was captured in 2012. Between 2001 and 2012, Gary Ridgway was considered America’s most prolific serial killer. After Little was captured, it became evident that Ridgway might have competition for that dubious title. And in the last four years, it’s been decided that Little can be linked to more victims than Ridgway and he earned the title.

So there’s those. Unfortunately, while I’m not a fan of giving serial killers headlines, scientific evidence shows that the public becomes more vigilant and become more willing to give tips to the police if a serial killer has a moniker. Also, it’s interesting that 2 of the serial killers on this list are African-American, because they only make-up 20% of the serial killer population.

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