Former DA, victims' friend respond to serial killer's execution - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Former DA, victims' friend respond to serial killer's pending execution


MADISON (WKOW) -- UPDATE: A federal appeals court has lifted the stay of execution for Joseph Paul Franklin. That restores the State of Missouri's plans to execute Franklin. That means only the U.S. Supreme Court can intervene in the case and stop the execution.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The man convicted of killing a Madison couple on a three year, racially-motivated murder spree across the U.S. will not face his death sentence this week.

Joseph Paul Franklin was granted a stay of execution just hours before he was to be put to death at a Missouri prison. He's believed to have killed more than 20 people all over the nation between 1977 and 1980.
Franklin is currently on death row for killing Gerald Gordon in a sniper attack outside a St. Louis synagogue in 1977. That was just a month after Franklin came to Madison and shot a biracial couple at East Towne Mall.
For years, police couldn't figure out why Toni Schwenn and Alphonse Manning were killed, or who did it, until 1984 when Franklin called investigators from an Illinois prison where he was serving time for other murders and admitted to the crime. Franklin said the couple's car backed up into his way in the parking lot so he shot them both because they were an interracial couple. 
Former District Attorney Hal Harlowe prosecuted the case in Dane County. He says it was a challenge to convince officials to bring Franklin to Madison to face trial. Many believed there was a chance he'd escape, which he'd done before, and a chance he would be acquitted. 
Harlowe says it was needed for the families and the community to get some closure on a case that had remained open for nearly 10 years.
"It wouldn't have been shocking had he just [confessed] to try to get out of a distinctly horrible prison," says Harlowe, "But once the evidence began to mount it was clear that he had killed these people and then what I was thinking was we really need to bring him back if we can."
Harlowe says the 1986 trial went quickly. Franklin served as his own defense attorney, recanting his admission in opening statements, but the jury ended up finding him guilty. He was sentenced to two lifetimes in prison.
The chilling details still affect Harlowe to this day, along with everyone involved. Manning's family was active in encouraging officials to bring the case forward, to hold Franklin accountable for what Harlowe describes as Franklin's pathological behavior.
Linda Langlois says after more than 30 years, she still thinks about her best friend Toni Schwenn and just wants closure for the senseless murders. 
"I think early on, I struggled with life or execution sentences, but somehow the execution felt like closure and now it feels like its open again," Linda says about Franklin's stay of execution. 
Langlois tells 27 News Schwenn was an outgoing, positive woman and was just starting her life out with her boyfriend Manning before the murders. She says every time something surfaces about Franklin, it brings back memories of the horrifying day she found out what happened.
Speaking by phone, Schwenn's brother and niece tells 27 New the family is just trying put the nightmare behind them and remember Toni for being a caring, peaceful woman. Manning's family could not be reached Tuesday.
63-year-old Franklin was to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, but a federal judge in Missouri granted a stay of execution Tuesday afternoon. Franklin and 20 other death-row inmates filed a lawsuit challenging Missouri's execution protocol. The judge ruled that lawsuit must be resolved before an execution.
A CNN reporter interviewed Franklin Monday night in the Missouri prison where he awaits his sentence. Franklin told CNN after more than 30 years in prison, he regrets some of the shootings but says he was trying to start a race war. 
He said he stalked his victims, who include Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. He survived but was permanently paralyzed by the bullets in 1978.
"Yeah, I was hunting them down, aint gonna deny that," Franklin says, laughing.
Franklin told CNN he's no longer a racist and has found religion.


Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WQOW. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service and Mobile Privacy Policy & Terms of Service.

Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's pubic inspection file should contact News Director Dan Schillinger at 715-852-5920. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at