There is a thankfully rare breed of serial killer known as long distance serial killers. Their crimes are very much like spree killings that are carried out in the same way. However, they are done over a longer period of time. As the name suggests, long distance serial killers kill their victims from a distance, typically with a rifle. One such serial killer is Joseph Paul Franklin. Joseph Paul Franklin was not only rare in that he killed from a distance. He was rare in that he is one of the few serial killers who were motivated by severe racism.
Joseph Paul Franklin was born James Clayton Vaughn, after his father. He was born on April 13, 1950 in Mobile, Alabama. His father was a drunk who abandoned his family for months and sometimes years at a time. When he was home, he reportedly beat his children. Joseph’s mother was no better. She was a strict disciplinarian who was not afraid to use physical force on her children. In this way, Joseph Paul Franklin grew up knowing how to follow the rules. He never stuck out as a bad seed. However, hatred was brewing inside of the well-behaved boy.
When Joseph was still in high school, an accident left him nearly blind. He then dropped out of high school in 1968 and was married the same year. Joseph Paul Franklin had one daughter with his wife, before leaving her. The marriage lasted less than one year. Joseph was abusive and prone to mood swings, which drifted between tears and physical violence. Around the same time as Joseph’s short-lived marriage, he began directing his hatred toward blacks and Jews. He was outwardly racist and known by the police for carrying concealed weapons.
In 1972, Joseph Paul Franklin left Mobile for Atlanta. There, he joined the local Ku Klux Klan and became an active neo-Nazi. His first known attack occurred four years later. Franklin despised interracial couples. One night, he followed an interracial couple into an alley and sprayed them with mace. This couple got lucky. It would not be long before Joseph took his attacks to a new level. That year, he changed his birth name to Joseph Paul Franklin legally and took to traveling as his father had done. The only difference was that Joseph took on a life of robbing banks and killing people.
Joseph was very careful about planning his attacks. He claims he would wait for hours for the right victims. Other times, he would hear something he did not like about someone he knew and then kill them. He changed his hair color a lot, adopted several aliases and changed vehicles frequently. He even carried a police scanner for when he was making quick getaways. His first major crime was the bombing of a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tennessee on July 29, 1977. No one was killed, but it did not take long for Joseph Paul Franklin to make sure someone did.
On August 7, 1977, Joseph Paul Franklin killed Alphonse Manning and Toni Schwenn with a handgun. One story says that they were an interracial couple and Franklin just wanted to take them down. Another says that he was stuck in traffic after a bank robbery and became frustrated with Toni and Alphonse, who were in the car ahead of him. Both were killed.
Joseph Paul Franklin committed his first long distance murder on October 8, 1977. He shot a man named Gerald Gordon as he was leaving his bar mitzvah in St. Louis, Missouri. Two others were shot, but Gerald was the only one killed. The following July, he attacked another interracial couple. Both were shot, but only the male, Bryant Tatum was killed. Joseph would later say that he liked attacking interracial couples where the male was black and the female was white. He would shoot the male first and the white women would not run. He said this as a way of insinuating that the white women who would date black men were stupid.
On July 12, 1979, Joseph Paul Franklin shot a black man named Harold McIver while the man was working. This was another long distance murder. Joseph had bad eyesight, but he was sadly skilled with a rifle. The following month he killed a black man at a Burger King in Falls Church, Virginia. On October 21, 1979, he shot an interracial common law man and wife in Oklahoma City. Both were killed. His last murder in 1979 was allegedly that of a 15-year-old prostitute who had told him that she took black customers.
On January 11 and 17 of 1980, Joseph Paul Franklin killed black men in Indianapolis. On May 3, he killed a hitchhiker named Rebecca Bergstrom in Monroe County, Wisconsin. She was murdered with a handgun. On June 8 of the same year, Joseph Paul Franklin murdered two teenage cousins with a rifle. Both were black males. On June 15, he murdered another couple. This time, both were black. On June 25, he killed two female hitchhikers. On August 20, he killed two black male joggers who were jogging with white women. The fact that Joseph felt this warranted murder says a lot about the man’s mentality. He was arrested shortly after and it became even more evident that Joseph Paul Franklin was out of his mind with unrelenting hatred.
Joseph Paul Franklin has since been sentenced to several life sentences in multiple states. He has also been sentenced to death in Missouri. He has never shown an ounce of remorse. In fact, he has continued to mock his captors, the judges who try him and the very people whose lives he stole.
It is interesting to note that Joseph has confessed to a couple of high profile shootings. He says that he is the man who shot pornography legend Larry Flynt and rendered him paralyzed from the waist down. He also says that he is the man who shot Vernon Jordan in 1980. He was acquitted of this crime, but it is likely he is guilty.
Joseph Paul Franklin, retrieved 9/1/10, serialkillercalendar.com/Brief-Bio-of-JOSEPH-PAUL-FRANKLIN.html