GRETNA, La. (AP) — A Massachusetts man indicted for raping three Louisiana children 40 years ago is now a suspect in the 1978 kidnapping and murder of one of them.
Nola.com/The Times-Picayune reports 72-year-old Jason Franklin is charged with raping Stephanie Hebert (AY’-behr), but isn’t charged in the 5-year-old Waggaman girl’s death.
Capt. Jason Rivarde said the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office would confirm only that Franklin became a suspect in Hebert’s death in spring 2018 after detectives received “additional information” in the case. Authorities declined to comment further.
Franklin is accused of raping Hebert sometime between 1975 and 1977. He’s accused of raping the boy and other girl when they were between the ages of 2 and 7. For at least part of that time, Franklin lived eight houses away from Hebert.
Hebert vanished on June 13, 1978, when she told her mother that she was going down the street to play at the home of a friend. Her disappearance sparked an extensive search of her subdivision and 3.5 square miles (13 sq. kilometers) of nearby woodlands.
Hebert’s remains were found nearly six months after she disappeared by a hunter in a swampy area of St. Charles Parish.
In 1979, investigators obtained warrants for a 16-year-old boy who was one of Hebert’s neighbors. But a grand jury refused to indict the teen, who proclaimed his innocence then and now. They later considered a second suspect, who was never charged or arrested.
Arrested in December, Franklin remains jailed in Jefferson Parish, with bail set at $6 million. It’s unclear if he has a lawyer. He’s next due in court July 10.
Detectives say they discovered evidence that Franklin raped at least four children while living in Waggaman and Bridge City between 1973 and 1977, Detective Donald Thornton testified during a court hearing.
Investigators identified a male rape victim, now 47, who accused Franklin of repeatedly sexually assaulting him while he was between the ages of 2 and 6, Thornton said. The male victim also identified other children sexually abused by Franklin around that time, including the now-48-year-old female victim from Franklin’s rape indictment. She, too, told authorities Franklin raped her.
In court, Thornton referred to a third rape victim who was “deceased,” but he did not immediately identify Hebert.
After he moved away from Louisiana, Franklin was convicted of child pornography possession in 2011, accused of taking lewd photographs of a 9-year-old boy, according to criminal records.
He was living in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on Nov. 29, 2018, when Louisiana detectives arrived at his home to arrest him.
Police in Massachusetts also seized caches of child pornography at his home, authorities said. It’s not clear whether he will face any charges there in connection with the illicit images.