Eric Lee Franks
Last week marked 8 years since anyone has seen Eric Lee Franks alive. The case has been difficult for Law Enforcement agencies involved because Eric seemingly vanished into thin air along with the vehicle he was driving. Authorities have been unable to locate remains and one of the last people to see Eric alive has since passed away. This has left a seemingly never-ending quest for Eric’s mother, Jo Ann Franks, who wants desperately to find her son and to bring him home for a proper burial.
Eric Lee Franks was 38 at the time of his disappearance. He stood 6’1” and weighed 175 lbs. Eric was a white male with brown eyes, black hair and pierced ears. He wore a full set of dentures and had his big left toe partially amputated.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF DISAPPEARANCE:
In October of 2010 Eric, who had been residing in Ohio after recently separating from his wife, packed up his things and moved to Saginaw County Michigan. The spontaneous decision came after Eric had gotten in touch with his ex-girlfriend, Kendra. After he and his wife had separated, Eric began wondering about his ex and what had become of her. He could not find her on social media but Eric did remember the name of the young man Kendra had left him for. Eric reached out to that man who replied that he and Kendra were now married with 2 daughters but he would let Kendra know that Eric was looking for her. Shortly afterwards, Kendra herself got in touch with Eric. It was at this point that Eric, while looking through Kendra’s Facebook profile, discovered Kendra’s oldest daughter was born shortly after they had broken up. After a bit of pressing, Kendra admitted the 15-year-old was Eric’s biological child. Upon learning this information, Eric dropped everything and traveled north to Bridgeport Township where he found temporary housing at The Miller’s Motel.
Eric Franks resided at the Millers Motel for roughly 5 months. During his stay he often checked in with his mother, Jo Ann, back in Ohio while also making new acquaintances with another guest. The other motel guest (who wishes to remain anonymous) and Jo Ann Franks were able to account for some of Eric’s last known whereabouts as well as for his basic state-of-mind. Both accounts paint a picture of a man who was determined to get his life back on track and who wanted to spend as much time possible with his newly-discovered daughter. Eric had visited local employment agencies in search of work and was hoping to find more permanent housing. It seemed however that not everyone was pleased with Eric’s presence in Michigan. Despite having gotten them in touch, Kendra’s husband was not okay with Eric hanging around his wife and the teenage-girl he helped to raise. The guest at the motel said Eric and Kendra would often argue about what role, if any, Eric should play in his daughters’ life.
One afternoon in late 2010, the guest at the motel witnessed Kendra’s husband threaten Eric. *Kendra’s husband reportedly sped into the parking lot of The Millers Motel and ‘skidded to a stop.’ The man jumped out of his car and hollered to Eric that ‘if he [Eric] didn’t stop messing around with his wife, [Kendra] he was going to put a bullet in his head.’ The guest moved out of state shortly after to pursue work. He didn’t learn of Eric’s disappearance until he returned and saw the missing person posters.
On March 10th 2011, Eric spoke on the phone with his Mom, Jo Ann, back in Ohio. This would be their last phone call. He apparently told her he had found a place to live nearby and was going to be moving out of the motel. The new place was in an area that had spotty cell phone reception so he promised he would call her as soon as he could. He also hoped that when he came back to Ohio in July for a dental appointment, he could bring his daughter with. The manager of the motel saw Eric on March 14, 2011 when he paid his rent in advance for the following week. On March 21, 2011, Eric Lee Franks was checked out of The Millers Motel. Kendra claims she watched him carry out his belongings before heading North on Dixie Highway in his bronze 4-door, 2001 Chevy Malibu with the Ohio license plates: EMH4902. The Manager of the Motel however remembers it differently. He claims he did not see Eric that day but he did see Kendra carrying Eric’s belongings out of his room.
Unfortunately, a lot of time passed before anyone noticed anything was amiss. Eric failed to return to Ohio in July as he had promised thus missing his important dental appointment. Eric’s mom, Jo Ann, left him a voice mail suggesting he take care of the dental maintenance in Michigan if he couldn’t return home as it was important. Instead of receiving a phone call in return, Jo Ann received an email supposedly from Eric, assuring her that he would take care of it. This did not concern Jo Ann as Eric had stated he didn’t have good service where he was living. This went on for quite some time, Jo Ann calling, leaving a voice mail only to receive an email in return. She sensed something wasn’t right and enlisted her sister and Eric’s aunt, Debra, to help. Together, they were able to track down Kendra who claimed she hasn’t seen Eric since mid-April when they got into an argument and he sped off to go to California. By November 2011, Jo Ann stopped hearing from Eric altogether so she and Debra reported Eric Lee Franks as missing.
Eric Lee Franks was reported missing to Ohio authorities in November of 2011. It was difficult for Eric’s family to get Law Enforcement to take his disappearance seriously as Eric is an adult and can leave town if he so chooses. Eric’s family got in touch with the manager at The Millers Motel who informed them Eric Lee Franks did not check himself out of the motel on March 21st but rather Kendra did. He also saw Kendra cleaning out Eric’s room. He was so bothered by the matter he remembered confronting Kendra and asking her what she was doing. She told him she was taking care of Eric’s belongs for him before driving away in a red car. This was enough information for Law Enforcement to agree something was certainly wrong.
Authorities questioned Kendra and her husband who gave multiple conflicting statements. Kendra said she saw Eric leave The Millers Motel on March 21st after they got into an argument. Kendra’s husband claimed to have never met Eric. After Kendra and her family were questioned, they packed up their belongings in the middle of the night, according to neighbors, and moved to Florida.
The cell phone Eric owned before he vanished proved to be useful. It apparently continued to make calls long after the last time anyone had seen Eric alive. One of the calls made was reportedly to a dental office. When questioned by authorities they said they never had a patient by the name of Eric Franks but they had taken care of Kendra and her family.
Once the guest that had previously stayed at The Millers Motel returned to Michigan and saw Eric’s missing posters, he thought there must be a mistake. He took it upon himself to contact Law Enforcement to inform them of the threat he witnessed Kendra’s husband make on Eric’s life. This conflicted the husband’s statement of never having met Eric. In May of 2013 Law Enforcement used cadaver dogs to search the property that Kendra and her family had lived on before moving to Florida. The dogs did not detect remains on the property that day.
In April of 2014 tragedy struck Eric’s, already tragic case, once again when Kendra and Eric’s daughter were both diagnosed with a rare yet aggressive form of breast cancer. Jo Ann Franks took this opportunity to reach out to her granddaughter to ask if they could meet and if she could donate money for her treatment. The granddaughter said she would need time to think about it. Jo Ann later received a text supposedly from her granddaughter, although she believes it to be from Kendra, requesting not be contacted again. In September of 2016, Kendra passed away.
THE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES:
Law Enforcement have not decreased their efforts in the search for Eric Lee Franks. They currently have a few agencies actively working on the case – some in Michigan and one in Florida. Eric’s case is being investigated as a homicide. The car Eric owned has never turned up. Law Enforcement as well as Jo Ann Franks spent countless hours calling salvage yards – none have record of receiving the 2001 Chevy Malibu. Authorities do not believe this to be unusual as the car was most likely stripped for parts before the frame was brought to a junk yard in which case the operators would likely not require a title for a partial car.
Law Enforcement also made huge efforts to locate a small plane that was once owned by Kendra’s husband. The plane had been sold shortly after Eric vanished. There is a theory suggesting Eric’s body was flown to a remote location before being dumped. The plane has been located in Mississippi. It seems the plane has been processed and it was determined to be too small to dump a body, although these findings are currently under scrutiny.
Authorities are currently tracking down individuals who were contacted by Eric Lee Frank’s cell phone after he had last been seen alive. After Kendra passed away in 2016, her husband gave authorities the names of two individuals who Kendra kept in contact with that supposedly knew Eric Franks as well. Jo Ann Franks is skeptical as to if Eric actually knew these individuals. Law Enforcement agencies are currently working on these new leads. Authorities are also allegedly interested in the red car Kendra was driving the day she packed up Eric’s belongings from The Millers Motel and drove away.
As the years tick by, Eric’s loved ones are left wondering what it will take to bring him home. Eric left home ecstatic and looking forward to meeting a daughter he just learned existed. There are parents in this world who want nothing to do with their children but here seems to be a wonderful man who put his daughter first from the moment he learned of her existence. The fact that he was possibly met with foul play for trying to become involved in his daughter’s life is heartbreaking.
If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Eric Lee Franks please contact the Michigan State Police 989-495-5555
ADDITIONAL LINKS TO READ:
The Charley Project:
The Disappeared Episode: