Months before she was killed in Atlanta, foster girl told police she was raped in Columbus

Murder victim’s brother remembers his younger sister as shy and goofy

Sgt. Michael Franks remembers his sister Dennetta Franks, 17, as shy, goofy and a bit of a diva. She was shot and killed in Atlanta after running away from foster care
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Sgt. Michael Franks remembers his sister Dennetta Franks, 17, as shy, goofy and a bit of a diva. She was shot and killed in Atlanta after running away from foster care

A 17-year-old girl found shot to death in Atlanta on Sept. 21 told police three months before she went missing that she was raped at an apartment in north Columbus.

The Ledger-Enquirer received the 13-page case report after submitting an open records request to the Columbus Police Department.

According to the report, Denetta Franks was a ward of the state who was staying at the Holiday Inn Express, located at 7336 Bear Lane, until she went missing Sept. 7, never to return again. Her name was redacted out of the case report regarding the rape, but she was identified in another police report on the same incident obtained by the newspaper.

On Sept. 21, Franks’ body was found in Atlanta in the middle of Hortense Place Northwest near the intersection of Florence Place Northwest. The girl’s family recognized a facial reconstruction circulated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and then contacted police to make the identification, according to information contained in a news release. Atlanta police are still investigating the homicide case.

On Thursday, Columbus police officials said the rape case also is still under investigation, and no arrests have been made.

About four months ago, Franks was staying at the hotel under the supervision of a guardian from Cedar Tree Children and Family Services, an organization responsible for caring for juveniles awaiting placement into a home by the Department of Family and Children Services, according to the police report. On June 14, two CPD officers responded to a call from the Holiday Inn Express at about 12:45 a.m. in reference to a sick or injured person. When they arrived they met Columbus EMS personnel, who said they were called to the hotel because someone had fainted.

Dennetta Franks, 17, was found shot and killed in September on a road in Atlanta. Her brother Michael Franks talks about the last time he saw her

A night auditor at the front desk told police that a black female had approached the entrance of the Holiday Inn Express waving a key card. The auditor said he let her in and she stumbled around in the lobby, and then sat down on a nearby sofa. She told him, “Call 911, they raped me,” and then stumbled forward. The auditor said he called 911.

EMS workers said Franks told them that she had been forced to drink alcohol and have sexual intercourse with an unknown person at an apartment on Whittlesey Boulevard, according to the police report. She was transported to Midtown Medical Center for evaluation.

In later interviews with the two officers and a detective from the Special Victims Unit, Franks provided more details. She said she was upset that she was going to be placed in another home by DFCS. So, she waited until the guardian went into the bathroom in their hotel room, and then she grabbed her belongings and met a female friend in the lobby, according to the report. She left the hotel at about 9 p.m., and the guardian reported her missing, according to authorities. Police were dispatched to the hotel at 9:45 p.m. in reference to the missing person case.

Franks told police that she and her friend were supposed to be going to the friend’s sister’s house but got into a car driven by her friend’s boyfriend.

Franks said the boyfriend, who was about 21 years old, drove them to a gated apartment complex near Whittlesey Boulevard, where he used some form of ID to get in, according to the report. Another man, who was about 25, met them.

Franks said she told her friend, “I thought it was going to just be us three.”

The friend said, “No, he has a homeboy. Why didn’t you wear something nice?”

Sgt. Michael Franks received a call about a news alert regarding an unidentified girl murdered in Atlanta. He knew the moment he saw the photo that it was his younger sister Dennetta Franks

Franks told her friend that she wasn’t there to impress anyone, but her friend insisted that she change once they got to the boyfriend’s apartment, according to the report. After changing in a restroom, they all sat together in the living room.

Franks told police they started drinking and she was given cranberry raspberry drink with some clear liquor. She drank two of those drinks, and then had one shot of a dark liquor.

The room went dark, and the boyfriend began playing slow music, Franks told police. Her friend and boyfriend left the room to take a shower, she said, and the boyfriend’s friend left the room briefly and returned wearing nothing but socks.

Franks said he then forced her to give him oral sex, leaving semen at the side of her face. (According to police, she still had semen on her face when she later arrived at the hospital.) He asked her to take off her shirt, she said, and when he said no he raped her on the floor in front of the couch.

After the incident, her friend and boyfriend came back into the room and her friend fell because she was so drunk, Franks told police. The friend and her boyfriend then began having sex, she said. The boyfriend tried to get his friend to also have sex with her friend, but Franks said she stopped them.

Franks said she told them she was going to walk home, but her friend convinced her to let them take her back to the hotel. They dropped her off at the Circle K on Veterans Parkway and Northlake Parkway, the 17-year-old girl told police, and she walked about one-tenth of a mile back to the Holiday Inn Express, where she fainted in the lobby.

Dennetta Franks, 17, was found dead in Atlanta. Days earlier, her brother Michael Franks had answered her call for help in Columbus

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter