38-year-old Eric Franks had two large goals in life, based on his brother-in-law, Chad Baus.
“One was: He dreamed of working in Hollywood. And he truly moved out to California for some time and labored on some small units,” Chad instructed Dateline. “The opposite one was to have a household.”
Chad is married to Eric’s youthful sister, Beth. “It was simply the 2 of them,” Chad stated. Eric and Beth’s father was a minister. “That they had grown up somewhere else,” Chad instructed Dateline. He stated the Franks spent most of their childhood within the South. “Nearly all of it was in Tennessee,” he stated. Chad met Beth whereas the Franks lived in Nashville, Tennessee in December 1995.
Eric was older than Beth by about 4 years. “I met Eric whereas I used to be courting his sister,” Chad stated. “Their household went out to dinner and I used to be invited.” Chad stated he doesn’t keep in mind being too nervous, however that “there’s at all times the priority” of simply how protecting an older brother goes to be when assembly his little sister’s boyfriend for the primary time.
“After I first met him, he was on the quiet facet,” Chad stated. “You form of needed to get to know him earlier than he would open up and discuss so much.”
Chad married Beth two years later in December 1997. In an e-mail, Chad instructed Dateline that Eric was of their marriage ceremony celebration, and stood with Beth.
Eric lived in Tupelo, Mississippi, for “fairly a while,” based on Chad. After Eric and Beth’s father died in 2006, their mom, Jo Ann, moved to Ohio, the place Beth and Chad had been dwelling. Eric finally adopted “in the course of the 2008 downturn.”
Chad and Eric had been brothers-in-law for 14 years when Eric vanished.
Chad, who’s the household spokesperson, instructed Dateline he believes Eric’s dream to have a household could have, sadly, been linked to his disappearance. “That dream form of wound up taking part in into a part of what occurred to him, we predict.”
He instructed Dateline that in October 2010, Eric moved to Saginaw, Michigan after he had reconnected with an ex-girlfriend, Kendra Firmingham, on social media in Could of 2010. He “found out that she truly had his organic baby and he was by no means conscious of that earlier than,” Chad stated.
“He was involved with the mom — his former girlfriend,” Chad defined. “The mom was, you realize, expressing that she and her husband had been having, you realize, issues weren’t going nicely.”
Kendra Firmingham was married to a person named John Carnes. However Chad instructed Dateline that Eric quickly moved to Michigan below the idea that he and Kendra “had been gonna get collectively and be a cheerful little household.”
A couple of week after Eric arrived in Michigan, he met his daughter, Emily. “He was there for a couple of months and did — did meet his daughter and did have a relationship with — with the mom earlier than — earlier than he disappeared,” Chad instructed Dateline.
Chad stated that within the few months that Eric was dwelling in Michigan, he would at all times keep in contact together with his household again in Ohio. “I imply, we guys are form of dangerous about checking in with our mothers,” Chad stated, with amusing. “However, you realize, each few weeks — I imply, she at all times knew the place he was. She at all times knew what he was doing.”
Chad instructed Dateline that Eric primarily “stayed involved by cellphone and infrequently e-mail.”
So when Eric went quiet for a few weeks in late winter of 2011, the Franks household knew one thing was flawed. “[Jo Ann] hadn’t heard from him, she would name and depart messages,” he stated. “He would not name again.”
Chad defined that Eric had instructed his household that he was “going to be shifting to a brand new home” with Kendra and that the “cell service wasn’t going to be nice.”
So the household waited, hoping to get again in contact with Eric. “The final day that Jo Ann and one other good friend of Eric’s heard his voice was March 10,” Chad instructed Dateline.
Then, within the months following, Jo Ann acquired some emails from her son. “Via the summer time, about as soon as a month, she would get one thing that was supposedly from him,” Chad stated. “Even on the time – particularly trying again – she was like, ‘That simply doesn’t sound like Eric.’”
Chad stated that by November of 2011, Jo Ann determined to report Eric lacking. “She lastly determined, you realize, ‘I believe one thing’s flawed,’” Chad instructed Dateline. “She mainly despatched a message and stated, ‘Until I hear your voice, I’m going to the police.’”
She didn’t hear Eric’s voice. Jo Ann reported her solely son lacking to police.
Dateline spoke with Detective Sergeant Invoice Arndt of the Michigan State Police about Eric’s disappearance. Detective Arndt instructed Dateline that Eric’s mom, Jo Ann, had known as the Bridgeport Township Police Division within the space Eric had been staying, earlier than formally reporting him lacking.
“She known as the Bridgeport Police Division and stated, ‘Hey, you realize, can someone go test for Eric?’” Det. Arndt stated. Nonetheless, the detective stated, there isn’t any file of a wellness test truly happening.
“She known as Archbold Police Division,” Det. Arndt stated. This was Jo Ann’s native police division in Archbold, Ohio. “Her official police report is November 14th, 2011.”
Detective Arndt instructed Dateline that after that, Eric’s case was handed round between police departments. “November – Archbold Police Division will get the lacking individual,” Det. Arndt stated. “Months later, Archbold Police Division contacts Buena Vista Police Division after which it is nearly two years earlier than they ask us to assist.” Buena Vista Township is the place Kendra Firmingham lived.
Detective Arndt stated that the altering of palms has negatively affected Eric’s case. “It is a detriment,” he stated. “We do not get entangled on this case till March of 2013.” Proof that will have been readily discoverable in 2011, he stated, could have now not been so two years later.
When investigators started trying into Eric’s case, they discovered that he had been staying at a spot known as Miller’s Motel.
They decided he was final seen on March 14, 2011, when he paid for his week’s lease.
“So Eric had been staying there a few months previous to him being reported lacking,” Det. Arndt instructed Dateline. The proprietor of the motel, Dan Patel, was one of many final individuals who noticed Eric.
“Eric paid him for per week’s keep,” Det. Arndt stated. “At that kind of motel you sometimes pay per week prematurely.”
Detective Arndt instructed Dateline that cost is the final paper file of Eric.
When requested if there have been any safety cameras on the motel, Det. Arndt replied, “No. No. There in all probability nonetheless is not safety footage there.”
In keeping with Eric’s brother-in-law, Chad Baus, the motel proprietor, Dan Patel, observed that Eric’s automobile was gone that week and that the lights had been on in his room, nevertheless it didn’t appear to be anybody was inside.
Then, the motel proprietor stated, he noticed a girl cleansing out Eric’s room. This girl turned out to be Kendra Firmingham.
Detective Arndt confirmed that Dan Patel reported to the police that he didn’t see Eric cleansing out the motel room. “Dan mentions that he noticed solely Kendra cleansing out the motel,” Det. Arndt stated. “And that Eric wasn’t there.”
This occurred a couple of week after the motel proprietor final noticed Eric in individual.
Detective Arndt confirmed that police requested Kendra about this on the time. “Kendra’s story was that they — she went to the motel to assist Eric clear it out,” he stated. He instructed Dateline that Kendra instructed officers that “Eric wished to go to California,” so she “helped him clear” his motel room out.
Det. Arndt stated that the police then checked Eric’s cellphone exercise. “There’s some outgoing calls after the day he was final seen,” Det. Arndt stated.
In keeping with Chad Baus, there have been many calls constituted of his brother-in-law’s cellphone within the weeks after he was final seen — to auto restore retailers, to Kendra’s cellphone, to a common surgeon, to salvage yards, auto components shops, a automobile vendor, and a dentist’s workplace the place each Kendra Firmingham and John Carnes had been sufferers, however Eric was not.
Detective Arndt confirmed that officers had been in a position to hint again a couple of of the calls from Eric’s cellphone. “The one to the auto components or auto service station,” he stated. “And there was a name to the dentist and I believe there was yet another that they had been completely in a position to hint again that associated to Kendra.”
The detective additionally confirmed these calls happened after Eric’s disappearance in March 2011. “However there have been different calls that they weren’t in a position to confirm who or what or the place they got here from,” he added.
Detective Arndt instructed Dateline in an e-mail that the final outgoing from Eric’s cellphone was to the Saginaw County Animal Management on Could 6, 2011.
“The earlier investigators did a number of work on this case,” Det. Arndt instructed Dateline. “Our company put it out to Crime Stoppers.” Eric’s case was submitted to NamUs and different nationwide lacking individuals web sites. “They did checks for all of — any bank cards or social safety stuff that they might give you,” he stated.
In an e-mail, Detective Arndt detailed all the searches performed for Eric all through the years. He stated they searched native scrap yards, canvassed the neighborhood, utilized aerial searches and despatched out cadaver canines many occasions.
Eric was nowhere to be discovered.
“They by no means discovered any property related to Eric,” Det. Arndt stated. “We’ve by no means discovered something.” In an e-mail to Dateline, Det. Arndt stated that Kendra instructed investigators that Eric took his private belongings when he left for California.
Chad Baus believes another person was utilizing Eric’s cellphone. “We’ve got cause to assume that somebody had possession of his cellphone, as a result of that is how these emails had been nonetheless being despatched,” Chad stated, referring to the messages Eric’s mom had acquired after he was final seen. “He wasn’t speaking like himself and he wasn’t spelling like himself and so forth. So it is fairly clear to us that wasn’t him.”
Whereas Detective Arndt doesn’t keep in mind seeing the emails personally, he famous that there would no technique to confirm who despatched them.
In September of 2012, Eric’s household put up lacking posters for him and reported his automobile, a 2001 Chevy Malibu with Ohio plates, stolen.
Officers executed many searches for Eric’s automobile, too. “The detectives — they did all the pieces they might consider. They went to native scrap yards searching for that automobile, pondering possibly someone demolished that automobile,” Det. Arndt stated. “Did some searches instantly, some cadaver canines searches instantly.”
Detective Arndt stated the cadaver canines had been used at each Miller’s Motel and on the property the place Kendra Firmingham and John Carnes lived. “They searched that home. They did fairly a bit of labor,” he stated. However once more, nothing was discovered.
Chad instructed Dateline that Eric’s motel room was searched, too. “They’ve performed a restricted quantity of checking or processing on that room years and years later,” Chad instructed Dateline. “However these lodge rooms get painted and repainted and cleaned and re-cleaned so many occasions.”
Chad stated that “there was no proof of something” occurring to Eric in that motel room. Detective Arndt confirmed investigators weren’t in a position to get well any proof on the motel and recalled that the motel proprietor had simply modified the carpeting on the motel.
At one level, Det. Arndt instructed Dateline, an eyewitness got here ahead and stated that they noticed John Carnes threaten Eric’s life outdoors the motel. “That gentleman was interviewed,” he stated. “He stated that is what occurred — that John was threatening Eric throughout an argument or one thing.”
Detective Arndt stated they requested Carnes about this interplay however famous that Carnes “gained’t say something in any respect” to officers.
Detective Arndt stated authorities have Eric’s dental information on file, simply in case. “They ended up getting some dental information,” he stated. “In case, you realize, there was one other lacking individual nationally that wound up lacking that could not be recognized.”
The detective confirmed foul play is suspected in Eric’s disappearance and that the Michigan State Police think about Kendra Firmingham and John Carnes individuals of curiosity within the case. Nonetheless, he famous, there has by no means been sufficient proof to make an arrest. “It is all circumstantial,” he stated. “There is no good proof.”
Detective Arndt instructed Dateline that officers “confronted” Kendra many occasions, however nothing ever got here of these interviews. “Polygraphs had been by no means taken,” the detective stated, including, “they had been provided, after all.”
In keeping with Det. Arndt, in both 2014 or 2015, the Michigan State Police offered Eric’s case to the prosecutor and recommended expenses. “There simply wasn’t sufficient proof,” he stated.
In 2016, Kendra Firmingham died, reportedly of most cancers. Dateline has been unable to achieve Kendra’s husband, John Carnes, for remark.
Dateline additionally reached out to Kendra and Eric’s daughter, Emily, who’s now an grownup, however didn’t obtain a response. Detective Arndt instructed Dateline that Emily was interviewed by police. “Didn’t have a lot to say, however she was interviewed,” he instructed Dateline. “She didn’t know a lot.”
Chad Baus instructed Dateline the identical factor about his niece. “They did converse to her when she was a minor and, you realize, she was house together with her dad and mom, she claimed to not know something,” Chad stated. “She did admit to having met Eric, having performed — having performed issues with Eric. They went curler skating, I keep in mind. They went to a mall — bowling, I believe.”
Eric’s case slowly grew chilly. The household held out hope that possibly in the event that they discovered Eric’s automobile — which truly belonged to his mom, Jo Ann — that they’d discover Eric. “The automobile was additionally nowhere to be discovered,” he stated. “A part of the best way they had been hoping they’d be capable to monitor Eric down was to have the ability to put a be careful for the automobile.”
Chad stated as a result of the automobile was titled to Jo Ann, “there was no approach for him to legally promote the automobile as a result of he didn’t have a title” and that there was “no approach for him to resume the plates when the time got here,” as a result of the automobile wasn’t registered to him.
“The police had at all times instructed us, ‘The automobile goes to show up. The automobile’s gonna flip up. That is how we’re gonna discover out, you realize, the place Eric is,’” Chad instructed Dateline.
9 years after Eric disappeared, the automobile did flip up. “We by no means might discover his automobile, till 2020,” Det. Arndt instructed Dateline. “In 2020, the household received data from an web sleuth that there was successful on the automobile — on Eric’s automobile,” the detective stated. “What occurred was the car was parked in a storage in Saginaw. The proprietor died they usually offered the home — or, you realize, the automobile, the home — the contents at public sale.”
The one who purchased the automobile at public sale took it to be inspected. “When he did that, it hit on CARFAX,” Det. Arndt stated, referring to the Automobile Identification Quantity (VIN.)
Chad instructed Dateline this story, as nicely. He stated a felony justice pupil named Miranda Bofman in California had seen a narrative about Eric’s disappearance on a TV present. “She was conscious due to her felony justice research, you could put a VIN in on CARFAX,” and get e-mail alerts any time a file pops up on that car,” Chad stated.
Within the fall of 2020, about three years after she enter the VIN on CARFAX, Miranda received a notification. “She will get a notification on August thirty first of 2020, that the automobile had been given an oil change,” Chad stated. “She didn’t even keep in mind — like, ‘What automobile is that this?’ And she or he was racking her mind making an attempt to recollect.”
Chad stated Miranda lastly put two and two collectively and reached out to Eric’s household in Ohio. In a message to Dateline, Miranda stated, “I’m thrilled to listen to Eric’s case is receiving renewed consideration. I hope this text encourages anybody who could have data to come back ahead. It’s been 11 years and it’s time for Eric to lastly come house, and for his household to get the solutions and justice they deserve.”
Chad and his spouse, Beth, simply occurred to be in Michigan on trip when Jo Ann known as to inform them the information. “We had been like, ‘Effectively, we will cease at that place,’” Chad stated. “And I stored pondering to myself, ‘That is in all probability, you realize, a typo or one thing.’”
It wasn’t a typo.
When Chad and Beth received to the place the automobile was labored on and defined why they had been there, an worker instructed them that they remembered the automobile. “So that they received permission to inform us, you realize, the proprietor of the automobile, which turned out to be one other automobile vendor,” Chad stated.
Chad and Beth raced over to the dealership. “I used to be anticipating the automobile was going to be sitting out on the — on the parking zone, you realize? One thing like — on the market,” Chad stated.
He stated they defined the story once more, this time to the proprietor of the dealership. “And so I am like, ‘Is the automobile nonetheless right here?’ And he stated ‘Sure, sitting within the subsequent room over,’” Chad instructed Dateline. “We rise up and stroll across the nook and there’s Eric’s automobile.”
Chad, who’s a automobile salesman himself, stated the automobile seemed similar to the day he offered it to Jo Ann. “I imply, it’s sitting there all cleaned up and glossy and like a time machine,” Chad stated.
Chad stated the proprietor of the automobile dealership had purchased Eric’s automobile from an property sale. “The property was that of a person named Gerald Rutledge,” Chad stated. “Gerald was an individual who was mainly an invalid — couldn’t depart his home.”
Detective Arndt confirmed this data, as nicely, and believes that the automobile being in Rutledge’s storage was not incidental. “It was not completely random,” he stated. “It was a connection to Kendra.”
Chad instructed Dateline that earlier than Gerald Rutledge died, Kendra had been his caregiver. “The automobile had been hidden in his storage and he could not exit to see it,” Chad stated. “He in all probability wasn’t even conscious it was there, nevertheless it had been there all these years simply sitting within the storage.”
Chad stated they known as the police with the information. “As quickly as we recognized the automobile, we instantly known as the Michigan State Police and talked to the detective that was in command of Eric’s case at thetime,” Chad instructed Dateline. “He dropped all the pieces and got here out and, you realize, they took possession of the car and processed it.”
Detective Arndt confirmed the Michigan State Police processed Eric’s automobile. “The brand new proprietor was super-cooperative. We ended up towing that automobile all the way down to the lab and having it processed for any proof,” Det. Arndt instructed Dateline. “The one factor that got here out of that was there was a spot of blood on the driving force’s seat.”
When the blood was examined, the outcomes got here again as belonging to Eric. “It wasn’t very massive. It was only a speck of blood — nevertheless it did come again to Eric,” Det. Arndt stated.
The detective instructed Dateline that officers did one other search after the automobile was discovered. “We went again to the place the automobile was truly parked — the storage the place the automobile was parked,” he stated. What they discovered was a “contemporary spot of concrete” within the driveway or within the storage. “So our investigators dug that, dug the cement out with an excavator and did a cadaver canine search.”
However they didn’t discover something there, both. “They searched the entire [property] and nothing was discovered,” Det. Arndt stated.
In an e-mail, Det. Arndt stated that there was one other set of cadaver canine searches in 2022 of each an deserted home in Saginaw and the realm round Miller’s Motel in Bridgeport Township. Once more, nothing of observe was discovered.
Detective Arndt stated that, at this level, certainly one of three issues is required to shut the case: Discover Eric, discover extra proof, or have somebody come ahead with data. “It’s going to at all times be open,” Det. Arndt stated. “It is only a chilly case.”
“We’ve got zero cause to assume that Eric remains to be dwelling,” Chad Baus stated of his brother-in-law’s destiny. “He by no means in his life had been out of contact together with his household,” Chad Baus stated.
Eric’s mom, Jo Ann, runs the Fb web page “Discover Eric Lee Franks” to share information and updates about her son. Eric could be 50 years previous immediately. He was 6’1” tall, 175 lbs., with brown eyes. His hair was black on the time of his disappearance.
Detective Arndt instructed Dateline in an e-mail that the Michigan State Police simply started a Chilly Case Investigation crew and that “sooner or later this case shall be re-examined for additional leads and investigation.”
Anybody with data ought to name the Michigan State Police at 810-733-9380 or the Lacking Individuals Unit at 855-642-4847.