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Joseph Paul Franklin: His Victims and Mysterious Demise

The Investigation Discovery documentary ‘Signs Of A Psychopath: Hey Look, I’m a Serial Killer’ details how Joseph Paul Franklin was found guilty of at least eight murders and suspected of another 20 between August 1977 and August 1980 in more than ten different states. He claimed to have had serious physical abuse as a child. He was born on April 13, 1950, as James Clayton Vaughn Jr. in Mobile, Alabama. Here is everything we know about Joseph and how he was apprehended in case you’re curious.

Who Were Joseph Paul Franklin’s Victims?

Joseph Paul Franklin had ugly racial events and periodic arrests for carrying hidden firearms from 1968 until the late 1970s. After his mother passed away in 1972, he reportedly grew more and more attracted to the American Nazi Party before succumbing to the segregationist cause entirely. He moved to Atlanta and joined the neo-fascist National States Rights Party while also being a member of the neighbourhood Ku Klux Klan. Over the next few years, Joseph gradually came to accept all of his unsettling racial beliefs.

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The initial act of disparaging interracial couples in public quickly changed into a stalking and chemical mace spraying of one such pair on Labour Day 1976. He then legally changed his identity to Joseph Paul Franklin at this time, and for the next three years, from 1977 to 1980, he wandered the Midwest and the South. He used about 18 aliases, frequently changed his vehicles and weapons, and frequently changed his looks as he waged a savage one-man war against minorities, killing at least eight more people.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Beth Shalom Synagogue, on July 29, 1977, Joseph set off an explosive that completely demolished the structure. Despite being the residence of 55 families, fortunately no one was wounded because the congregation left the Friday night Shabat services early because they lacked a minyan of two. Alphonse Manning Jr. and Toni Schwenn, a young interracial couple, were shot and killed by Joseph on August 7, 1977, in a parking lot of the East Towne Mall in Madison, Wisconsin.

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He lurked in the bushes close to Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue and opened fire on worshippers on October 8, 1977, motivated by his anti-Jewish feelings. Gerald Gordon, 42, was killed, while Steven Goldman and William Ash were both hurt. In Lawrenceville, Georgia, on March 6, 1978, Larry Flynt, publisher of the Hustler, and his attorney Gene Reeves were ambushed, according to Joseph. Joseph claimed he shot at them in retaliation for the magazine’s edition that featured interracial intercourse, even though no one was ever charged in the incident.

On July 29, 1978, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Joseph concealed himself close to a Pizza Hut and shot and killed Bryant Tatum, an African-American man, with a 12-gauge shotgun. He also shot at Nancy Hilton, his girlfriend, but she lived. In Doraville, Georgia, on July 12, 1979, he admitted to fatally shooting Taco Bell manager Harold McIver through a window from 150 yards away. Despite the fact that he was never put on trial or given a punishment for this murder, he said he killed Harold because she was associated with white women.

In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on October 21, another interracial married couple, Jesse E. Taylor and Marion Bresette, became his final victims of the year. Vernon Jordan was a civil rights leader and the president of the Urban League when Joseph allegedly shot him after spotting him with a white woman in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on May 29, 1980. He was cleared of all charges after originally denying any role in the incident, but he eventually confessed. On June 8, 1980, in Cincinnati, Ohio, he killed the teenage cousins Darrell Lane, 14, and Dante Evans Brown, 13.

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Joseph claims that while waiting on a flyover to murder a mixed-race couple, he accidentally shot the teenagers. On June 15, a week later, he used a powerful weapon to shoot and kill another interracial couple, Arthur Smothers, 22, and Kathleen Mikula, 16. In Johnstown, Pennsylvania, they were traversing the Washington Street Bridge on foot. Despite subsequently confessing to them in a jailhouse interview, he was never detained for these killings. Two hitchhikers, Nancy Santomero, 19, and Vicki Durian, 26, were killed by Joseph.

On June 25, 1980, the killings took place in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. After learning that one of the two female hitchhikers had a black boyfriend, Joseph allegedly picked up the two and killed them. While a Florida man named Jacob Beard was initially found guilty of the double homicide and sentenced to jail in 1993, he was released in 1999 as a result of Joseph’s 1997 confession. On August 20, 1980, two African-American men named Ted Fields and David Martin were his final victims. They were shot and killed close to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah.

How Did Joseph Paul Franklin Die?

By 1980, the FBI and its cooperating law enforcement agencies were closing in on Joseph. Due to his proficiency at leading a life of anonymity, the frequently great distances between his crimes, and the absence of supporting evidence, he had managed to stay under the radar. According to court records, he mostly supported himself through several bank robberies and paid blood bank donations. However, on September 25, 1980, a watchful Kentucky police officer discovered a revolver in the backseat of his vehicle. His records revealed an outstanding warrant, which led to his arrest.

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Joseph was brought in by the police to be questioned, but while in custody, he ran away. However, the FBI was on his side and its behavioural analysts provided their perspectives as the FBI shared its expanding understanding of Joseph’s traits and strategies with the public and law enforcement. His racial tattoos and his dependency on blood bank donations for money in between bank robberies were two significant details. The Bureau warned blood banks around the country about Joseph’s obvious racist tattoos.

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When a Florida blood bank employee became aware of Joseph’s ink job and alerted the FBI, it ultimately resulted in his incarceration. In Lakeland on October 28, 1980, he was taken into custody. He compared himself to a US soldier in Vietnam who was being taught to be a sniper for the war in one of his last interviews in 2013. “I felt like I was at war,” Joseph remarked. The future of the white race was in jeopardy. He said, “I consider it my mission, my three-year mission,” while declaring Jews and mixed-race couples to be his enemies. From the age of 30 to 33, Jesus spent the same amount of time on his mission.

In Utah, Joseph was found guilty of murder and violating civil rights; he is currently receiving a life sentence. More convictions followed, including those for the Chattanooga explosion, the Wisconsin double homicide, the June 1980 double homicide in Cincinnati, the Chattanooga homicide of William Tatum, and the Missouri murder of Gerald Gordon. The 63-year-old was executed on November 20, 2013, at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Centre in Bonne Terre, Missouri, after being found guilty of the murder in Missouri.

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