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Published: Monday, 12/27/2004

Daughter hopes for clues of mom missing since '65

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Until last year when police contacted her, Tammy Franks thought she was abandoned when she was a baby. Until last year when police contacted her, Tammy Franks thought she was abandoned when she was a baby.
LONG / BLADE Enlarge

For most of Tammy Franks' life, she believed the story her father had told since she was a toddler.

He said Tammy's mother picked up and left the family when Tammy was still in diapers.

Now 41, Miss Franks knows there may be more to the story. Toledo police are looking for Elizabeth Franks - nicknamed Beth or Bethie, who last was seen in April, 1965. And they believe she was killed.

"She had no reason to run off and get a new identity," Detective Vicki Stevens said.

Last year, police renewed their search after Elizabeth Franks' sister contacted them. She wanted to learn more about the disappearance - she told police she had heard it was a homicide - while trying to get in touch with Tammy.

When police found Miss Franks and relayed her aunt's information, it was the first time she had heard any story other than her father's.

"My first reaction was, 'Did you find my mother?' " Miss Franks said. "This was the first I was aware that it was a missing person-type thing."

Mrs. Franks still is considered a missing person. But detectives, her mother, and her daughter believe she is dead and the victim of foul play.

"We feel she was murdered," Detective Sgt. Tim Noble said. "It's just against human nature never to contact your family again."

Investigators are hoping a recent age-enhanced sketch of how Mrs. Franks might appear today - she'd be 57 - will help locate her or shed light on the case. The red-haired, blue-eyed young mother was 17 when she disappeared.

A sketch shows what Elizabeth Franks may look like today. A sketch shows what Elizabeth Franks may look like today.
HO Enlarge

After detectives talked with Tammy Franks, they learned that her father told her that her mother had run away. The news prompted them to investigate further.

They scoured local, state, and national databases looking for any clues. Among the ominous discoveries: Her Social Security number hadn't been active since 1965.

"It's never shown up anywhere," Sergeant Noble said.

Investigators have tried to locate people who knew her, and interviewed her husband, Thomas Franks, whom they asked to take a voice stress test. Investigators call Mr. Franks "a person of interest."

He admits to getting into a fight with Beth Franks just before she disappeared, but said he didn't hurt her.

"In a way, I'm kind of curious what happened to her," said Mr. Franks, who said he hopes she is alive.

Mr. Franks, now 60, said he and his wife argued after he caught her with another man. He said he pushed her. Investigators said he knocked her down a set of steps.

"Right after that, she disappeared and I never saw her again," Mr. Franks said. "Basically, I assumed she picked up and left."

Investigators are listing Beth Franks in the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and a statewide program that deals with missing people and unidentified bodies.

They need DNA from her or two relatives for the databases. Beth Franks' mother recently gave investigators a lock of her daughter's hair.

"Before I [die], I would like to know what happened to my daughter," said her mother, Lea, who asked that The Blade not use her last name.

She spent years looking for her daughter, whom she last saw before Easter in April, 1965, when Beth stopped by her home to give her a bottle of cologne. Lea was making Easter baskets for her daughter and her granddaughter. A few days later, she took the baskets to Beth's residence at 1512 Western Ave. The landlady let her in when no one answered the door.

"When I got there, the apartment was trashed. Drapes were half-torn, like there had been a battle, a big fight. Clothes, everything strewn around," Mrs. Franks' mother said.

The landlady told her she heard a lot of commotion the night before. The baby's bed was empty and there was no bedding, her mother said.

She said she made a police report on her daughter's disappearance and she and her sister canvassed Toledo looking for the teen. She hired a private detective to try and find her daughter. She wrote to the FBI, then under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, and even tried a radio psychic.

"It was frustrating that nobody seemed to know anything," Mrs. Franks' mother said.

When detectives reopened the case, they didn't have much to go on. They don't have the original missing persons report. They only had a small powder-blue card with two entries.

The first was from July 21, 1965, indicating a letter was sent from Toledo police to the OSR, which detectives believe is the Ohio State Reformatory, referencing "this girl" reported missing to police and identifying Robert James Crosby as an acquaintance.

The other entry, dated Feb. 2, 1966, talks of a phone call from the OSR advising that Mr. Crosby was in New Orleans. Sergeant Noble said he found nothing when he contacted authorities in New Orleans. Investigators said Mr. Crosby since has died.

Although Beth Franks didn't graduate from Genoa High School, she was a member of the chess club, a local church, and Girl Scouts, her mother said. She said her daughter was a meek child who was very sweet and loved by everyone.

Mr. Franks said he met his wife, whose maiden name is McCarthy, at a quarry in Genoa. He went into the Navy and when he returned, the pair married after Beth became pregnant. Because of her age, a judge had to give them permission to marry, her mother said.

They were married just over a year when she disappeared.

A few days after the argument, Mr. Franks said he saw her sitting with a man on the front porch of a house on Dale Street near Western. He said that was the last time he saw her.

Mr. Franks said he got a divorce and has since twice remarried.

Beth Franks' mother said she's tried to put her daughter's disappearance out of her mind because she had to move on and raise her other children.

But it's tough to forget her firstborn.

"She was my daughter. A mother wants closure," Lea said. "I would like to know what happened. I would like to see the one who killed her."

Tammy Franks said she thinks her life might have been different if her mother was around or if she would have known about her maternal family before last year. She has yearned for her mother - and refused to change her phone number for 14 years in hopes that one day she would call.

She lived with her paternal grandparents for about five years after her mother disappeared. She returned to her father, but left at age 14. She said she spent about three years at a children's home in Maumee and then about two years in a group home.

Tammy Franks started college at 19, earning an associate's degree in building maintenance from Owens Community College.

"If we can find something, then I can move on," she said. "I think she would have been a good mother. I really think she would have."

Contact Christina Hall at: chall@theblade.com or 419-724-6007.



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