Franklin missing 20 years today, and no trace of her has been found|[7/26/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2006

She remembers that her great-aunt was untrusting – suspicious of everything and everybody.

That’s part of the reason Mary Franklin’s disappearance 20 years ago today is still unsettling to Sandra Johnson.

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&#8220When the sun went down, her shades came down, her doors were shut and her windows were closed,” Johnson said. &#8220She was a very private person.”

But there was no sign of forced entry into the home where Franklin lived alone – meaning Franklin may have welcomed any person or people who had a role in her disappearance.

&#8220There’s no doubt in my mind that she knew the perpetrator or perpetrators,” Johnson said.

While Franklin was last seen July 26, 1986, more than two days passed before the 71-year-old was reported missing to the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. No trace of her has been found since.

About 50 feet off China Grove Road near Gibson Road stands the Franklin home. Trees and shrubs cover what used to be the front yard. Windows are missing, providing different views of the two-bedroom house from its caving front porch.

Johnson, now a 15-year veteran of the Vicksburg Police Department, took a quick look through the front door. It has been 12 years since she’s been on the property, where she spent many days and nights as a child.

&#8220I get an eery feeling when I pass by this house at night,” she said. &#8220But I don’t stop. It’s too spooky.”

Indeed, the house has developed quite a history.

In October 1994, the bodies of three Hinds Community College students were found in the home. They had been shot to death with their hands tied behind their backs.

Arrests followed on the theory that the murders were related to drug trafficking and the empty house was merely an opportune place for executions. There was no connection to Franklin’s disappearance.

&#8220I did go into that house in 1994, but I hadn’t been in there since,” Johnson said. &#8220That was very scary. I recall picking up some family pictures off the floor.”

Also, three years earlier, fugitive Dennis Henry DePue of Michigan, profiled earlier the same night on &#8220America’s Most Wanted,” ended a year-long run from police near the front of the house by taking his own life after a shootout with Sheriff Paul Barrett and his deputies.

&#8220That’s a bit much,” Johnson said of the history around the property.