Of the 69 Missouri executions between 1989 and 2013, that of serial killer Joseph Franklin is amongst the most notorious. Having admitted to killing approximately 22 people, Franklin’s crimes were race driven, and he viewed people of African-American or Jewish descent as enemies to the Caucasian race. His murder spree lasted for three years, from 1977 to 1980.
On April 30, 1950, in Mobile, Alabama, Joseph Franklin was born Joseph Clayton Vaughn. He was born into poverty and suffered frequent and severe abuse. It was in his teenage years that he began to develop a strong interest in Nazism and the Klu Klux Klan. Eventually, he even changed his name to honor Paul Joseph Goebbles, who served as a Nazi propaganda minister under Adolph Hitler.
In 1977, Franklin was responsible for taking the lives of 3 people and injuring two others. On August 7, he shot and killed an inner-racial couple in the parking lot of East Towne Mall in Madison, Wyoming. Later, on October 8, he hid in some long grass near a telephone pole outside of the Brith Shalom in Richmond Heights, Missouri, and opened fire on a group of worshipers, killing one and injuring two.
In 1978, Joseph Franklin claimed that he was responsible for the March shooting of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, for featuring interracial sex in the magazine. Nearly six months later, on July 29, He made another attack on inner-racial couple, utilizing a 12-gauge shotgun. The male was killed but his white girlfriend survived.
On July 12, 1979, Franklin fatally shot a 27 year old African-American Taco Bell manager through a window from 150 yards away. Franklin claimed the reason was that the manager was in close contact with white women. The shooting took place in Doraville, Georgia.
In 1980, the final year of his killing spree, Joseph Franklin took the lives of six and injured one. On May 29 he shot a civil rights activist and Urban League president because he witnessed him in the company of a white woman. Later, on June 8, he killed two black males, aged 13 and 14. He shot them as he waited on an overpass. On June 25, he gunned down two female hitchhikers in West Virginia, because one had stated that she had a black boyfriend. His final crime was the August murder two black males in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Sentencing and Execution
For his crimes he was sentenced to a total of six life sentences, and the death penalty. In his final days, Joseph Franklin renounced racism. Ultimately, he died by lethal injection on November 20, 2013 in Bonne Terre, Missouri.
“Joseph Franklin, white supremacist serial killer, executed”. BBC News. November 20, 2013.
“Serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin prepares to die”. CNN. November 18, 2013 .
Missouri Death Row