U.S. serial sniper killings include 2 in S.L.
In '80, Franklin shot, killed duo in Liberty Park
Sniper serial killings in the United States date back long before the recent D.C.-area shootings and the victims include two Salt Lake City men.
In Texas, Charles Whitman killed 14 from the University of Texas Tower in 1966. In Ohio, Thomas Lee Dillon pleaded guilty to three murders in 1993 after "hunting" for humans.
In Utah, the sniper was Joseph Paul Franklin.
"He was one of the most disgusting persons I ever met," said Salt Lake Deputy District Attorney Bob Stott, who was the prosecutor in Franklin's Salt Lake trial.
On Aug. 20, 1980, Ted Fields, 20, and David Martin, 18, both black, were shot and killed while jogging in Liberty Park with two white women. Franklin was eventually convicted of both the murders and of violating their civil rights. He was sentenced to four life terms.
"He thought blacks should not be on the face of the Earth. There should not be interracial mixing of any type," said Mike George, who was the lead investigator for the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office during the Franklin case.
Stott said Franklin was just passing through Salt Lake City, the latest stop on what authorities later discovered was a nationwide killing spree. He happened to be in Liberty Park when he saw a black man and a white woman walking together.
Infuriated by what he saw, Franklin scoped out a vacant lot kitty-corner from the park. Hidden behind a hill 40 yards away, he waited with his high-powered hunting rifle with scope until another mixed couple walked by, Stott said. The next people to walk by were Fields and Martin.
Contrary to the sniper motto "one shot, one kill," Franklin fired seven times at Liberty Park.
Investigators said Franklin apparently thought that committing murders in a sniper fashion would make it harder for witnesses to detect him and would distance himself from physical evidence.
"It was this mission of his, this spree. He had a trunk full of powerful rifles, weapons and ammunition," Stott said.
Franklin has been convicted, is awaiting trial or has reportedly confessed to at least 20 murders nationwide and a synagogue bombing. He is also linked to other shootings that did not result in death, including that of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.
Though he has confessed in recent years to many crimes, he maintained his innocence throughout his entire trial in Salt Lake City.
Franklin's crimes and the D.C.-area shootings were similar in that they both were conducted in the style of a sniper. Other than that, officials say there aren't a lot of similarities between the two killing sprees.
While the D.C. shootings crossed all races, ages and genders, Franklin specifically targeted blacks and Jews.
"His whole life was controlled by his hate. His whole life was trying to exhibit his hate, play out his hate," Stott said. "I've seen other people with different problems, but I'd never seen someone with so much rage and hate built up inside him."
George said Franklin fit the sniper profile in that he was a loner. He also had a liking for pornography, which was ultimately his downfall as a prostitute he had a liaison with in Salt Lake City supplied police with valuable information that eventually led to his arrest in Kentucky.
Franklin was extradited back to Salt Lake City where he faced his first of many murder trials. Franklin is currently serving six life sentences for killings nationwide. He is being held in federal prison in Missouri.
Sniperlike serial killers are "cowards," according to George, noting they don't have the courage to face their victims face-to-face.
"That's really the way I saw Franklin. He tends to hide behind a lot of things. He absolutely hid behind his crimes. He couldn't establish a meaningful relationship with anybody," George said.
Franklin went through several defense attorneys before Salt Lake District Attorney Dave Yocom, then a defense attorney, was asked by the judge to represent the alleged sniper.
"It was really a challenge to get along with the guy and do your best to represent him," Yocom said.Yocom said Franklin was belligerent and demanding at first but a "personable guy once you got to know him." Still, whenever Yocom visited Franklin in jail he would take a deputy along as backup.
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