LOS ANGELES — As she faded in and out of consciousness, Enietra Washington begged the man who had shot her in the chest to take her to a hospital.
She had kids; she’d haunt him if he took her life and didn’t provide for her kids.
As the 57-year-old recounted her experience 28 years ago to a Los Angeles courtroom, her daughter, now grown, began to cry.
On Thursday, Washington — the lone survivor of a serial killer who police say roamed the streets of South L.A. for decades — testified in the trial of Lonnie Franklin, Jr. Prosecutors allege he had been on a killing spree of seven young black woman from 1985 to 1988. Then he met Washington — who lived, despite the bullet at point blank range. Three more victims were found in the 2000s, a pause that inspired the nickname the Grim Sleeper.
Washington never knew the name of the man who tried to kill her. On Thursday, prosecutors asked if she was now sure that man was Lonnie Franklin.
“100 percent,” Washington said. “Less hair now, he still looks the same.”
Franklin’s defense attorney declined to make an opening statement in the trial to outline why the jury should find him not guilty. Instead, attorney Seymour Amster has questioned whether the evidence and investigation was as complete as it should have been. Prosecutors have said each death has been linked to Franklin with DNA, firearms evidence, or both.
Washington’s testimony also offers a unique look into the methods of a serial killer who moved undetected for decades, prosecutors have said.
On Nov. 19, 1988, Washington, who was 30 years old at the time, was walking to her friend’s house in South L.A. The two were supposed to get ready for a party together. As she walked, she spotted a parked orange Pinto — customized with racing stripes, rims, and high-end tires.
“It reminded me of Hot Wheels, the little miniature cars my kids used to have,” she said.
The driver of the car must have noticed her looking, and he called out to her. She ignored him, and he pulled up alongside her and again said something through the rolled-down passenger window.
“I told him you can’t holler at me through car windows,” she said. “You have to get out and talk to me.”
He asked where she was going, and what she was doing. He offered her a ride, and she said she was fine to walk.
Washington remembered he was shorter than her, wearing khaki pants and a short-sleeve work shirt.
“He was dressed neat,” she said. “He wasn’t tacky or scruffy looking.”
He pressed her again to accept the ride, and she refused.
“That’s what’s wrong with you black women,” he told her. “People can’t be nice to you.”
The statement made her reconsider — maybe she was being rough, too standoffish. She began to feel sorry; he was just trying to be nice, so she got into the car.
After driving for awhile, she thought he called her Brenda, and realized he was talking to her.
“All of a sudden, everything just went really, eerily quiet,” she said.
In shock, she reached for the door handle.
“Don’t touch that door, bitch, or I’ll shoot you again,” he told her. For the first time she realized she had been shot.
His voice was menacing, but mostly calm, she told the court. She kept asking him why he shot her. He again called her by someone else’s name and said she was always “dogging him out” — disrespecting him.
“I don’t even know you,” she insisted.
Washington said she blacked out, and when she came to, he was on top of her. She continued to lose and gain consciousness, waking up to him kissing her, then with his face between her legs, then again to the flash of a camera — he had taken a Polaroid photo of her.
That photo would later be found inside Franklin’s longtime South L.A. home, prosecutors said, which was not far from the house he stopped at with Washington in 1988. On Thursday, the Polaroid was enlarged and projected for all in the courtroom to see — Washington with blood spatters on her blouse and jacket, one breast exposed, leaning against what appeared to be the inside of a car door.
“I remember trying to fight him,” she said, “pushing him away, and then he started pushing me.”
Deputy district attorney Beth Silverman asked if he raped her.
“Yes,” Washington said.
“Did you feel that happen?”
“No, thank god,” Washington responded.
Finally — she didn’t know how long after — he restarted the car. She again reached for the door handle.
“He just pushed me out and the door opened at the same time,” she said.
She doesn’t remember how long she lay in the street. Finally, a voice in her head told her she had to get up.
She rolled to the curb and managed to stand, confused as to where she was. As she pulled herself forward, leaning on parked cars, she realized she was on the street of her friend’s home. Still fading in and out, she made it to the home’s porch. No one answered as she banged on the door.
So she waited, hoping to build up the strength to walk to a main road for help. Finally, her friend and her friend’s husband pulled into the driveway. Her friend asked here where she had been, then started hysterically screaming when she saw the blood.
Paramedics soon arrived, who took Washington to a hospital where she would undergo surgery and spend about three weeks. Full recovery took about a year.
It was around that time that Washington thinks she saw Franklin again. She was outside her house in Inglewood when a man walked up to her.
“Do you know me?” the man asked. “Am I supposed to?” she responded.
But then she thought about it, and she remembered the Inglewood address was on her driver’s license, which had gone missing at some point during the attack.
“Oh my God,” she remembered thinking. “Then I shook it off.”
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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