BONNE TERRE, Missouri — The white supremacist who confessed to the 1980 “Rainbow Murders” in Pocahontas County was put to death in a Missouri prison Wednesday morning.
Joseph Paul Franklin, 63, who claimed he murdered as many as 20 people in several states between 1977 and 1980, was executed by lethal injection in connection with a Missouri murder.
In 1997 Franklin told a Cincinnati prosecutor that he murdered hitchhikers Nancy Santomero, 19, of New York, and Vicki Durian, 26, of Iowa on June 25, 1980 in Pocahontas County. The women were traveling to a Rainbow Family meeting in the Monongahela National Forest.
Franklin’s confession came four years after Pocahontas County resident Jacob Beard was convicted for the crimes. After a number of legal proceedings focused on Franklin’s confession, Beard was found not guilty by a Braxton County jury in a second trial that took place in May 2000.
Franklin never stood trial on the 1980 murders.
Those who investigated the Beard case told the Charleston Daily Mail Tuesday they still believe Beard committed the murders, not Franklin.
“If you look at the forensic and ballistic evidence, it is not consistent with Franklin’s statement,” former Pocahontas County Sheriff Jerry Dale told the newspaper. “I’ve worked in prisons myself and I know how inmates work. There’s a society within a society.”
Dale claims Franklin read about the deaths in a crime magazine.
“He got the number of times the victims were shot wrong. The trajectory of the shots – nothing makes sense,” Dale told the Daily Mail.