“I want to solve this to bring closure to the family,” said Sandusky police Detective Dana Newell, who is trying to breathe new life into the long-dormant case.
Ida May “Todd” Franklin was a petite, 73-year-old woman who lived in a tiny home at 1312 S. Depot St., now Seavers Way.
On April 9, 1994, Kathy Agee went to the home and found Franklin, her aunt, dead in the bedroom. She had been strangled and her throat was slit, her clothed body left under a mattress propped against a couch. Police said it appeared Franklin had been dead five to seven days before she was found, according to Sandusky Register stories at the time.
“It was a very dark time for our family,” said Pam Castile Soirell, another of Franklin’s nieces.
Family members called Franklin by her nickname, “Todd.” She loved to have people around, although there was a sadness about her, possibly from the several miscarriages she suffered, her family said. She never had children.
“Other than that, she was a great woman,” Soirell said. “Happy-go-lucky. She was a very frank woman — whatever was on her mind, she would say it.”
Once Franklin got to know someone, she loved them, Soirell said.
Newell could not say for certain if Franklin had been sexually assaulted, but it did not appear so. Register stories at the time said blood DNA evidence was collected from the crime scene and submitted to a crime lab for testing.
A steak knife found near the body had Franklin’s blood on it. The knife appeared out of place, as it did not match a knife set in the home. Detectives are hoping the weapon may contain other traces of DNA evidence, which could possibly lead to the murderer’s identity.
There were no signs of forced entry into the home, which also led police to suspect Franklin knew her killer.
The possible motive was robbery — Franklin had cashed a Social Security check earlier, but the money was never found.
Police investigated several suspects at the time but Clinton was not one of them, Newell said.
The DNA test results never produced a match to anyone in the system. In 1994, however, Clinton’s DNA would not have been in any database.
“Clinton was not in the system at that time,” Newell said.
But police are now looking at Clinton as a possible suspect.
For starters, there were similarities in Franklin’s murder and the Sept. 8, 2012, murders of Heather Jackson and her children. Last week, Clinton, 42, was sentenced to death for the murders of Jackson, 23, and her children, Celina, 3, and Wayne Jr., 20 months. Clinton knew Jackson. He also knew Franklin.
Jackson’s body was found stuffed between a mattress and box spring, and she and her two children were all strangled.
These patterns caught the attention of a Sandusky resident, who told police that Clinton lived in the same area as Franklin in 1994 and he was known to visit her frequently, Newell said.
Officers didn’t delve into the case until recently, when the court docket started to clear up. There were four other killings around the same time as the Jackson family murders last year.
“It was so frustrating, but we had to take care of the immediate cases,” Newell said.
Four thick binders of documents now make up the Franklin case file. Detectives are starting their investigation from the beginning, and they’re also looking at another possible suspect beyond Clinton. They’re also asking Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents to help choose pieces of evidence for testing. After that, it could be months before test results come back, Newell said.
Soirell said she’s ready for whatever the investigation may bring.
“It makes me feel good that they are trying,” she said. “They did not forget her, and that lets me know they care.”
Franklin was murdered four years prior to the death of 18-year old Fostoria native Misty Keckler, whose body was found April 3, 1997, in a partially filled bathtub. She was naked and bound, and she had been strangled to death.
Clinton was charged with murder in Keckler’s death, although in 1999 the Wood County prosecutor let him plead down to involuntary manslaughter. His attorney had argued Keckler’s death was the result of choking during sexual activity. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter, as well as three years for assaulting corrections officers.
Last year, just seven months after he was released from prison, Clinton murdered the Jackson family. While he was in jail awaiting trial, Clinton had a telling conversation with his mother, according to court testimony.
“I don’t know what it is,” Clinton told this mother. “I just lose it. I get overwhelmed.”
Sandusky police have issued a notice to other law enforcement agencies in Ohio, asking them to review their cold cases for similar patterns.
Detectives may ultimately have to determine just how often Clinton was unable to control himself.