Joseph Paul Franklin was a rare racially-motivated
serial killer. Franklin drifted city-to-city and state-to-state in
search of new hunting grounds in a quest to "cleanse the world",
as he put it.
Franklin killed at random, possibly
beginning in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1977 when he shot Alphone Manning
and his white friend Toni Schwenn. In 1979 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,
he killed another racially mixed couple. In Indianapolis, Indiana, the
next year, Franklin shot and killed two black men in seperate incidents.
Though brought in for questioning on the Indianapolis and Oklahoma
murders, he was never charged because of lack of evidence.
On June 8,
1980, Franklin gunned down Darrell Lane, 13, and Dante Brown, 14, two
cousins on their way to a neighborhood store in Cincinatti, Ohio.
killing spree was finally ended in 1980 when he was arrested in Florida
for the Salt Lake City, Utah killing of two black men the racist had
spotted jogging with white women.
In total, Franklin has been tenuously
linked to roughly 20 killings and numerous other crimes including bank
robbery and possibly bombings.
He has confessed to the shooting of civil
rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine's Larry Flint. He has
also admitted guilt in a 1980 murder of two hitch-hikers in West
Virginia, a crime for which another man has been convicted and is
serving two life sentences.
Franklin has garnered multiple life
sentences himself and is currently incarcerated on Missouri's death row
for the murder of a Jewish man outside a synagogue.
Trail of Violence
- July 25: Bombing. No injuries. Rockville, Md. Admits.
- July 29: Bombing. No injuries. Chattanooga, Tenn. Convicted.
- Aug. 7: Two killings. Madison, Wis. Convicted.
- Oct. 7: One killing, two injuries. St. Louis suburb. Trial
- March 6: Two injuries. Lawrenceville, Ga. Admits, trial
- July 29: One killing, one injury. Chattanooga suburb. Admits,
- March 25: One killing. Jackson, Miss. Admits, no charges.
- July 29: One killing. Chattanooga suburb.
- Aug. 8: One killing. Falls Church, Va.
- Oct. 1: Two killings. Oklahoma City. Charges dropped.
- Jan. 12: One killing. Indianapolis.
- Jan. 14: Two killings. Indianapolis. Admits after charges
- April 23: Two injuries. Indianapolis. Admits.
- May 3: One killing. Tomah, Wis.
- May 29: One injury. Fort Wayne, Ind. Admits after jury acquits
- June 6: Two killings. Cincinnati.
- June 15: Two killings. Johnstown, Pa.
- Aug. 20: Two killings. Salt Lake City, Utah. Convicted
(1977-1981) was a 37-year old former Klansman and neo-Nazi from Madison,
Wisconsin who believed that interracial couples were a sin against God.
He also believed that the criminal justice system was too lenient on
blacks, and he once targeted a judge he thought was too lenient.
He is thought to have bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga and was also a
suspect in the shooting of Larry Flynt presumably because interracial
couples were featured in Hustler magazine.
He was an excellent sniper, and in his travels around the country, he
shot 15 people, mostly couples consisting of a black man and a white
woman. His favorite sniping post was the rooftop of shopping malls, but
he eventually began shooting mixed-race jogging couples from any rooftop
or perch. He evaded prosecution several times because he was so mobile
and the only evidence authorities had on him was that he was in town
when the shootings happened.
A jury in Utah eventually sentenced him in 1981 to four life terms, and
other states, such as Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida
followed suit in 1986 or considered their cases closed.
Joseph Paul Franklin
Born James Clayton Vaughn, Jr., in Mobile
Alablama, Franklin was the eldest son of an alcoholic drifter who often
abandoned his family for months or years at a stretch. Siblings remember
that James Vaughn, Sr., would celebrate infrequent homecomings by
beating his children, with James, Jr., absorbing the worst punishment.
As a youth, Franklin went in for food fads and fringe religions,
dropping out of high school after an accident left him with severely
The injury was a two-edged sword, exempting Franklin from military
conscription, and he married in 1968, at an age when many young men were
sweating out the draft lottery, fearful of the war in Vietnam. Soon
after their wedding, Franklin's bride noted a change in his personality
"like night and day." He began to beat her, emulating the
father he hated, and on other occasions she would find him inexplicably
weeping. Around the same time, their all-white neighborhood was racially
integrated, and Franklin began to veer hard right, into the realm of
The next few years were marked by ugly racial incidents and sporadic
arrests for carrying concealed weapons. Franklin was increasingly drawn
to the American Nazi Party, lapsing into the segregationist movement
full-time after mother'shis death, in 1972. Moving to Atlanta, he joined
the neo-fascist National States Rights Party, simultaneously holding
membership in the local Ku Klux Klan. Franklin began insulting
interracial couples in public, and on Labor Day 1976, he trailed one
such couple to a dead-end street in Atlanta, spraying them with chemical
Around this time, Franklin legally changed his name, shedding the last
links with his "normal" life. Federal prosecutors allege --
and jurors have agreed -- that he spent the years 1977 to 1980 wandering
across the South and Midwest, employing 18 pseudonyms, changing cars and
weapons frequently, dying his hair so often that it came close to
falling out. Along the way, he killed some thirteen persons in a
frenzied, one-man war against minorities.
According to the FBI, Franklin launched his campaign in the summer of
1977, bombing a Chattanooga synagogue on July 29. Nine days later,
investigators say, he shot and killed Alphonse Manning and Toni Schwenn,
an interracial couple, in Madison, Wisconsin. On October 8, Gerald
Gordon was killed by sniper fire as he left a bar mitzvah in the St.
Louis suburb of Richmond Heights.
Harold McIver, the black manager of a fast-food restaurant in Doraville,
Georgia, was working the night shift when a sniper took his life on July
22, 1979. Three months later, in Oklahoma City, another interracial
couple came under attack from the itinerant gunman. Jesse Taylor was hit
three times with a high-powered rifle before he expired; a single round
through the chest killed Marian Bresette as she ran to the aide of her
Franklin struck twice in Indianapolis during January
1980, killing black men with long-distance rifle fire in two separate
attacks. On May 3, he allegedly killed a young white woman, Rebecca
Bergstrom, dumping her body near Tomah, in central Wisconsin. On June 8
he surfaced in Cincinnati, bagging cousins Darrell Lane and Dante Brown
from his sniper's perch on a nearby railroad trestle. A week later, in
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Franklin shotgunned a black couple -- Arthur
Smothers and Kathleen Mikula -- as they crossed a downtown bridge. On
August 20, joggers Ted Fields and David Martin were cut down by rifle
fire in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Arrested in Kentucky on September 25, 1980 (and recaptured a month later, after escaping
to Florida), Franklin faced a marathon series of state and federal
trials, with mixed results.
In 1982, he was acquitted of federal
civil rights charges in the May 1980 shooting that left
civil rights leader Vernon Jordan critically injured in Fort Wayne,
Indiana. Utah juries found him guilty of murder and civil rights
violations; Franklin was serving life on those counts in 1983 when he
confessed the 1978 sniping that crippled Hustler magazine publisher
Larry Flint in Gwinnett County, Georgia. (Franklin was indicted for that
crime but never tried, since he already faced stiffer penalties in other
More convictions followed: for the Chattanooga bombing;
for the double murder in Wisconsin, described
by prosecutors as "the closest thing to killing for sport";
for the murder of Gerald Gordon, killed leaving a Clayton, Missouri
synagogue in 1977 (his first death sentence); for the June 1980 double
murder in Cincinnati; for the 1978 murder of William Tatum, shot while
talking to a white woman outside a Chattanooga restaurant.
Other crimes confessed by Franklin
without further convictions include the 1980 murder of teenager Nancy
Santomero at a peace retreat in West Virginia; the 1980 murders of an
interracial couple in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the 1980 murders of an
interracial couplein Johnstown, Ohio; an the separate 1979 murders of a
white woman and a black man in Decatur, Georgia. Overall, investigators
believe Franklin is responsible for at least 18 murders and five
nonfatal shootings in 11 states, plus two bombings and 16 bank
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of
Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
Ohio v. Joseph Paul Franklin
Franklin gets two more life
By Aldina Vazao - CourtTV.com
October 22, 1999
Ralph Winkler sentenced serial killer and alleged white supremacist
Joseph Paul Franklin to two consecutive life sentences for the 1980
Cincinnati murder of two black teenagers. Franklin said he would
appeal within 30 days.
On October 21, the jury convicted Franklin of
gunning down 14-year old Darrell Lane and 13-year old Dante Evans
Brown. Franklin said he killed the boys because they were black.
Immediately after Winkler sentenced him, Franklin
said, "You might as well--all the other judges have." Franklin is
linked to twenty other racially-motivated murders in 11 states and
has racked up at least six other life sentences, as well as one
death sentence in Missouri.
Franklin repeatedly taunted the judge. In
response to one outburst, Winkler responded, "I'm looking at the
face of evil. You're basically a Hannibal Lecter, but with a rifle."
Lecter was the serial killer in the movie, Silence of the Lambs.
Winkler also disagreed with Franklin's assessment
that he should get credit for confessing to the killings. "I helped
these people [the prosecution] out...I didn't have to do it," said
Franklin. Winkler also expressed disgust at Franklin's attitude
throughout the proceedings. The first thing he heard Franklin do in
court, said Winkler, was whine. Franklin had accused the county
deputies of preying on him and making homosexual advances. Winkler
said those and other charges were unfounded. "If there is such a
thing as a motion to whine, you would have filed it," the judge said.
Franklin served as co-counsel and presented no
case. Co-counsel Dale Schmidt submitted a pre-trial motion to
suppress a recording of Franklin's detailed confession to assistant
prosecutor Michelle Powers. The judge's denial of that motion will
be the basis of Franklin's appeal, said Schmidt. Franklin will argue
that Powers led him on in order to get a confession.
While no family members spoke at the hearing,
written victim impact statements were submitted by Lane's sister and
Brown's mother. Winkler called their words "heart wrenching."
Winkler also said that justice would be better
served if the death penalty could be applied in Franklin's case.
Although the death penalty is currently legal in Ohio, it was not at
the time of the killings and therefore can not be applied.
Franklin received a stay of execution from
Missouri in order to stand trial in Ohio. Lead prosecutor Joseph
Deters asked the judge to order Franklin back to Missouri as soon as
Franklin found guilty
By Beth Karas - CourtTV.com
October 20, 1999
CINCINNATI, Ohio, Oct. 20 (Court TV) -- Before the trial of Joseph
Paul Franklin began, the jury went to the crime scene, so that
members could see for themselves the place where cousins Darrell
Lane and Dante Brown were murdered 18 years ago.
Jurors visited the motel parking lot where the
cousins walked through to reach Reading Road. They saw the railroad
trestle over the road and the convenience store where the boys
headed to buy candy. They viewed the spot on the trestle where
Franklin allegedly stood and fired his rifle at the boys. Finally,
they were shown the spot where Lane and Brown went down from the
In opening statements, Prosecutor Joseph Deters
passionately recounted the alleged events of June 1980.
Lane and Brown, born one year apart to the day,
were spending the weekend with their grandmother. One night at 11:30
p.m., while their grandmother was sleeping, the boys snuck out to
buy some candy. They invited Linda Lane, Darrell's big sister, but
Shortly after, there was a loud noise which awoke
the grandmother. When she discovered the boys had broken her "no
going out after dark rule" she quickly went to find them. Linda
followed moments later.
Linda described what they saw as a "scene of
unspeakable horror." Her 13-year-old brother Darrell was dead. Her
14-year-old cousin Dante was mortally wounded and still clutching
the $1 bill he saved for candy.
Deters also described the protracted police
investigation. He recounted how the murder weapon was traced back to
Franklin through a newspaper advertisement, after the suspect
apparently tried to get rid of it. He also spoke of similar
shootings that were traced back to Franklin through his license
But authorities had no witnesses and no
confession. Eventually the investigation grew cold. For the next 18
years, Deter told the jury, Franklin was charged with several
racially-motivated killings, finally ending up on Missouri's death
Deters ended by telling the jury about Franklin's
April 10, 1997 confession to prosecutor Melissa Powers. He allegedly
told Powers his goal was to cleanse the world by killing blacks.
Compiled from a
chronology prepared by the Cincinnati Police Department
August 7, 1977 Madison, Wisconsin
and killed a male black and a female white after an altercation in a
shopping mall parking lot. Both shot with a handgun.
Franklin admitted to these homicides February 17, 1984. He was tried,
found guilty and given two life sentences in 1985.
October 8, 1977 Richmond Heights, Missouri
and killed a male white and wounded two others as they were leaving a
Shooting was with a 30.06 Remington rifle which was left at the scene.
shots were fired from a grassy area at the top of the synagogue parking
lot. Sniper type shooting.
Franklin admitted this offense and was tried, convicted and sentenced to
death by lethal injection.
March 6, 1978 Gwinette County, Georgia
and wounded Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and his lawyer Gene Reaves.
Shooting was sniper style. Shot with a .44 caliber rifle. Flynt was shot
twice and Reaves once, both survived.
Franklin was indicted but never tried.
Franklin has since admitted to these shootings.
July 29, 1978 Chattanooga, Tennessee
and killed a male black and wounded a female white companion. Shooting
was with a 12 gauge pump shotgun.
Shooting occurred in a Pizza Hut parking lot. Both victims were shot
once with a 12 gauge pump shotgun. The shooting was sniper style from
tall grass off the parking lot.
Franklin admitted this offense after contacting investigators from jail
and confessed. He was indicted and pled guilty on the eve of his trial
Franklin was sentenced to two life sentences, one for the murder and one
for an unrelated armed robbery offence that occurred in 1977.
July 12, 1979 Doraville, Georgia
and killed a male black manager of Taco Bell. Shooting was sniper style
from an area off the rear parking lot.
Weapon used was a 30.30 savage rifle. Victim shot twice.
Franklin admitted this offense to Assistant District Attorney on March
Franklin has been indicted for this murder, but has not been tried.
December 5, 1979 Dekalb County, Georgia
and killed a 15 year old female white prostitute Mercedes Master.
with a shotgun at close range.
Franklin picked this victim up hitchhiking, and actually lived with her
for sometime before the murder.
Franklin has admitted this offense to Assistant District Attorney on
March 26, 1998.
Franklin has been indicted for murder, but has not been tried.
August 18, 1979 Falls Church, Virginia
and killed a 27 year old male black who was seated in a Burger King
Sniper type shooting. Victim shot with a 30.30 rifle.
Detective met with Franklin at his request on March 10, 1997.
Franklin confessed to this murder on videotape.
October 21, 1979 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
and killed a male black and a female white in a shopping center parking
Shooting was sniper style from a distance of 100 yards away. The male
subject was struck 3 times and the female subject once. Five shots were
fired and four took affect.
weapon used was 30.06 rifle.
Franklin has been indicted for these murders, but Oklahoma has not
sought to extradite him for trial.
January 11, 1980 Indianapolis, Indiana
and killed a male black 19 years old who was standing in front of a
Churchís Fried Chicken window.
shot was fired sniper style, striking the victim once in the chest, the
shot was fired from a distance of approximately 150 yards away.
weapon used was a 30 caliber rifle.
Franklin has admitted to this offense and has been indicted, but Indiana
has not sought to extradite him for trial.
January 16, 1980 Indianapolis, Indiana
and killed a male black standing in front of a fast food convenient
store with his father.
Sniper type shooting one shot to the chest of the victim.
Weapon used was the same weapon used in the January 11th
shooting a .30 caliber rifle.
was fired from a distance of approximately 150 yards through a plate
Franklin has been indicted for two counts of aggravated murder and is
June 15, 1980 Johnstown, Pennsylvania
and killed a male black and a female white walking down the street.
Sniper type shooting from a wooded area near a railroad overpass.
victim shot once the female was shot twice with .35 caliber rifle.
Franklin was seen driving a dark green Chevy Nova at the time of the
Franklin has admitted these homicides on April 13, 1997 and has been
indicted, but the state of Pennsylvania will not extradite him.
June 25, 1980 Pocahontas County, West Virginia
Picked up two female white hitchhikers and drove to a wooded area of a
park where he shot and killed them.
Murders are known as "the Rainbow Murders" locally.
Weapon used was a .44 caliber handgun.
Franklin confessed to these murders on March 1, 1984.
However there was another person charged with these offenses, and
subsequently convicted (Jacob Beard).
August 20, 1980 Salt Lake City, Utah
and killed two male black joggers as they were leaving a park with two
victims were shot multiple times, seven shots total fired.
Sniper type shooting from a distance of approximately 40 yards.
Weapon used was a 30.30 Marlin lever action rifle
Franklinís car was observed leaving the scene a 1975 brown over brown
Chevy Camaro KY license BDC678.
Franklin was charged indicted and tried both by the state on murder
charges and federally on civil rights violations.
was convicted and received two life sentences. Franklin has since
admitted to these offenses on at least two occasions.
number of murders Franklin has been charged with or admitted to date
(June 98): 20
number of seriously wounded Franklin has admitted to or been indicted
for to date (June 98): 6
number of bank robberies Franklin has admitted to or been indicted for
to date (June 98): 16
number of bombings Franklin has been indicted for or admitted to date
(June 98): 2
State of Missouri v.
Joseph P. Franklin
969 S.W.2d 743 (Mo.banc 1998)
Case Facts: In September of 1977, believing that Jews were "enemies
of the white race," Franklin drove to Dallas, Texas after robbing a
bank in Little Rock, Arkansas. In Dallas, Franklin bought a 30-06
rifle with a telescopic sight. He then drove to St. Louis, Missouri,
checked into a hotel, scouted the city for synagogues, and finally
chose Brith Shalom Kneseth Israel Congregation in Richmond Heights.
To prepare for the crime, Franklin bought some ten-inch nails, a
guitar case and a bicycle. He tested the bicycle to assure himself
that is could be used to enable him to leave the scene of the crime.
He drove the nails into a telephone pole to serve as a rifle rest.
Later, he ground the serial number off the rifle. He then cleaned
the rifle, ammunition and guitar case of any fingerprints and,
thereafter, he used gloves to handle the equipment. Lastly, he put
the rifle into the guitar case and hid them both in some bushes near
On October 8, 1977, Franklin waited
outside the synagogue for people to emerge. Shortly before 1:00
p.m., some of the guests left the synagogue and walked toward their
cars. Franklin began firing on the guests. He fired five shots from
approximately one hundred yards. Gerald Gordon was shot in the left
side of his chest and later died from blood loss resulting from
damage to his lung, stomach, spleen, and other internal organs.
Steven Goldman was grazed on the shoulder. William Ash was wounded
in the left hand and later lost his small finger on that hand.
Having fired all his ammunition, Franklin abandoned the rifle and
the guitar case. He then rode his bicycle to a nearby parking lot
where his automobile was parked, hid the bicycle in some bushes and
left St. Louis by car.