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Police have leads on 5 women in suspected serial killer's photos

By Michael Martinez, CNN
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Police try to identify women in photos
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The public has identified five of more than 100 women depicted in photographs
  • NEW: Authorities still need to confirm those claims
  • NEW: Website posting the photos gets 10 million hits in the first 24 hours
  • Photos were found in the home of the Grim Sleeper suspect
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View the photographs released by Los Angeles police.

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Visitors to the Los Angeles Police Department website have identified five women depicted in photographs found in a suspected serial killer's home this summer, but police need to independently confirm those claims, spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said Friday.

Authorities would not say whether those women are alive or dead, Eisenman said.

A website displaying the photos received 10 million hits in 24 hours after police asked for assistance in naming more than 100 women depicted in 180 photos, which police released Thursday, Eisenman said. Some women were featured in more than one picture, police said.

Police have also received more than a dozen phone calls since releasing the photos, they said Friday.

Authorities want to know whether a serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper has more than the 10 murder victims that police are now alleging.

"We are grateful for the public's response to the release of the images," a statement said. "It is our fervent hope that with this response, coupled with the tireless efforts of our detectives, the women depicted in these images will be positively identified."

In July, 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was arrested and charged with 10 murders and one attempted murder dating to 1985, and Los Angeles police spent hundreds of hours sifting through thousands of photographs, Polaroids and videotape found in Franklin's house.

The bodies of victims, many working as prostitutes, were all found in close proximity to each other in a neighborhood formerly known as South Central Los Angeles.

Franklin, a mechanic who once worked for the LAPD, was arrested in July after police say they matched his DNA with DNA left on some of the victims. Police were led to Franklin after his 28-year-old son got arrested and gave a DNA swab, authorities said.

Authorities said they narrowed the confiscated images down to 180 photographs.

At a news conference Thursday attended by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck, authorities said they had difficulty determining whether some of the women were alive or dead in the photos.

"We cannot tell," Beck said. "Obviously, as all of you can see, some of them are animated, and some are not. It's impossible to tell by the photographs.

Robbery Homicide Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said police have a responsibility to try to determine the whereabouts of the women.

"These are clearly photos of women that Mr. Franklin had contact with," Kilcoyne said. "We have a responsibility to identify these women. They may be alive and well, but we need to be certain.

"If there's nothing we glean from this, we are able to fill in the timeline of Mr. Franklin's life, and that's one of our goals as well," Kilcoyne said.

He declined to talk about the context in which the women's images appeared.

"The lifestyle or the situation that these women are in would defeat our plea with the public," Kilcoyne said.

Police are not sure where the women in the images resided, because Franklin's movements throughout his life are not yet ascertained, authorities said.

"His travel habits are unknown to us," Kilcoyne said. "We believe he spent the majority of his life right here in the city of Los Angeles."

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