Investigator recalls meeting racist serial killer - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Investigator recalls meeting racist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin for first time

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More than 30 years after his last killing, the notorious serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin was executed Wednesday morning at a state prison in Missouri. The white supremacist went on a cross-country killing spree in the 1970s and has ties to Chattanooga. He bombed a synagogue and killed a black Chattanooga man because his girlfriend was white.

Sixty-three-year-old Joseph Paul Franklin may be better known for shooting and wounding civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and 'Hustler' magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who has been paralyzed since the 1978 attack.

But Franklin claimed ties to as many as 20 killings, one of which happened in Chattanooga in 1978. He confessed in 1995. The original investigator on the case recalls meeting Franklin for the first time.

"He's intelligent, but the common denominator is evil under intelligence. He's just an evil person," said Tim Carroll in a 1998 interview, shortly after Franklin was sentenced.

Franklin was sentenced to life for the 1978 murder of William Bryant Tatum in Chattanooga. Carroll recalls getting the phone call from Franklin in '95. He was already in prison in Missouri for killing of a man outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977.

Carroll recalls, "I asked him, I said, 'So, okay you're calling. Why now?' He said, 'I want to have the most death penalty cases pending against anybody that's currently in custody.' He said, 'I've killed several people.'"

Carroll drove out to St. Louis to interview Franklin.

"The correctional officer said, 'Who are you here to see?' And I said, 'Joseph Franklin.' And he said, 'Hannibal?' I went, 'Who?' He said,'That's what we call him.'"

Carroll let Channel 3 listen to Franklin's chilling confession on tape. In the interview Carroll asked, "When you arrived in Chattanooga, what was your purpose, coming to Chattanooga?" Franklin answered, "To look for interracial couples." Carroll asked, "Did you find such?" Franklin answered, "Yes, I did."

Franklin spotted Tatum and his girlfriend leaving the movies and followed them to a Pizza Hut on Highway 58. Recalling the crime 18 years later, he even drew a map, explaining what he did.

Carroll holds up the drawing, explaining, "He even said I parked my car on this road, I left my hood up on my car to make it look like it was broke down."

Franklin hid in the grass, then fired on Tatum and his girlfriend as they left the restaurant.

"I then fired, aiming for the center mass, and hit him square in the chest," said Franklin, in his '95 confession.

"I prosecuted for 27 years and I've seen everything you could possible see. He was a person that was so full of hate. He just hated," says Stan Lanzo.

Stan Lanzo prosecuted Franklin in 1984 for the 1977 bombing of the Beth Sholom Synagogue in Chattanooga. No one was hurt and the synagogue was rebuilt.

For both Lanzo and Carroll, there is no joy in his execution but relief.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's the end of Joseph Paul Franklin," says Carroll.

Franklin was convicted for eight of his murders but only sentenced to death for one. We spoke with the sister of Bryant Tatum. She tells says she has forgiven Franklin. Even though he was put to death, she says the pain of her brother's murder will never go away.

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