Book focuses on Alabama-born serial killer
After years of watching crime novels on television, we think we know what an FBI profiler does.
He investigates the crime scene, the method of killing, learns what he can about the victim, and draws up a sketch of the type of person who committed the crime.
In the case of serial killers, the criminal is almost always a white man.
John Douglas was one of the first FBI profilers in the late 1970s and has written nine previous books on the subject with Mark Olshaker.
Here in “The Killer’s Shadow” we see Douglas working on the case of Joseph Paul “Jimmy” Franklin, who was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1950. He had a lot of aliases. His maiden name was not Franklin.
Franklin, as is very often the case, was brought up in an abusive, dysfunctional household. His father, who may have sustained a head injury at Iwo Jima, was a drunk man who beat his wife and children and left when Jimmy was 8 years old. Mother Helen then beat the children.
Not all beaten children become serial killers, but almost all serial killers were abused children.
Douglas notes that abused female children tend to turn their anger and low self-esteem on themselves, punish themselves, often become prostitutes, drug addicts, or seek abusive partners to replace their fathers.
Men with their testosterone load usually turn their anger outward in violent antisocial behavior.
Often this behavior is psychosexual and includes gratification through punching, stabbing, torture, and rape. We know a number of these types of serial killers.
But Jimmy Franklin was a different species, the hateful assassin who killed at a distance, in his case with high-powered rifles.
The sniper plans carefully. He explores his territory, leaving no evidence, and wants to escape to kill again. He has no personal connection with the victim. The victim is part of a group that he wants to kill.
Obsession is hate, not sexual perversion. Douglas calls these killers “mission oriented”.
As a young man, Franklin belonged to the American Nazi groups and the white supremacist groups, but gave up because, in his paranoia, he believed that the Nazis were thoroughly infiltrated by the FBI and that the white supremacy groups were not doing enough to start the race war he wanted to start in America. This murderous behavior, Douglas says, gave Franklin “a sense of identity and purpose”.
Franklin was on a crusade. He became a fan of organic foods, bodybuilders, martial arts enthusiasts, and runners who considered himself a devout Christian and did God’s will according to scriptural instructions. Douglas says, “Franklin compared his three years of murders before his arrest to Christ’s three years of service before his arrest and crucifixion…. He was a firm believer in doing the will of God and justified his aim by saying that if the Lord had wanted all peoples to mix, he would only have created one race. “
Not a complicated study of evolution, anthropology, Olduvai Gorge, homo sapiens moving out of Africa etc for Franklin.
He came to public attention when he shot three men leaving a bar mitzvah in a synagogue in St. Louis. Franklin later expressed his belief that politics, the media, all banking, and much of American life were secretly controlled by an international Jewish conspiracy, an idea that had been reinforced by his previous Nazi associations.
Over time, Franklin revealed that his stronger hatred was directed against African Americans and, in particular, against mixed race couples. Douglas believed that killing mixed race couples, in addition to being pure racism, had a sexual component for Franklin. “I was on a search and destruction mission for racing mixers,” Franklin said.
Franklin seemed impossible to catch as he had no connection with the victims and was careful not to get caught.
Serial killers are supposed to stick to the same method and have a home area where they are comfortable. Not Franklin. He roamed the United States and changed his name and car regularly. To keep himself in money, he was adept at robbing small banks quickly – a cashier, not greed – or, when desperate, selling his blood plasma.
He murdered a mixed-blood couple who were jogging in a Salt Lake City park. Occasionally he would take away a prostitute or a hitchhiker, and if she mentioned in conversation that she had sex with a black man or was willing to do so in the future, he would murder her.
But in Madison, Wisconsin, in a mall parking lot, the car in front of him was moving too slowly to match. He blew the horn and when the other driver appeared, Franklin noticed that the driver was black and the passenger was white. He shot them both. This hand-to-hand combat was not his MO and made him vulnerable to discovery.
Franklin was caught and then, from prison, from time to time contacted law enforcement agencies across the country, confessed to an unsolved crime he actually committed and was sent there for trial. It was his way of getting excursions out of the monotony of his cell.
And while he was in federal prison in Marion, Illinois, he rightly feared he would be murdered by black prison gangs who learned of his racial crimes.
Was Franklin Crazy? No, says Douglas. He was bent, but knew right from wrong, was full of hatred – a man on an insane mission.
Douglas believes Franklin killed at least 20 people, shot porn publisher Larry Flynt, likely shot civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, and perhaps planned to kill President Jimmy Carter.
Franklin was convicted of many of his crimes and ultimately executed in 1997.
This book was not only educational but also terrifying. Franklin’s gone, but who can tell how many Franklins are still out there?
Don Noble’s latest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama writers.
“The Murderer’s Shadow”
Authors: John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Publisher: Dey Street
Price: 21 USD (paper)