Cruel Ex Uses Horrific Family Murder to Terrify Fearful Stalking Victim

recent photo of Jeffrey Franklin courtesy of Alabama Department of Corrections

Every single one of the roughly 20,000 murders in the U.S. last year devastated the loved ones left behind. But to the media, most of them are not newsworthy. As callous as it sounds, the crimes that most people want to read about are the ones with a twist; perhaps the killer is a preacher who was living a sordid double life, or what everyone thought was a suicide turns out to be a murder.

The twist in this case is a doozy.

The Teen Family Annihilator

On March 10, 1998, in my beloved home state of Alabama, seventeen-year-old Jeffrey Franklin decided to murder his entire family. His gruesomely explicit diary, decorated with hand-drawn images of Satan and occult symbols, tells us it wasn’t a snap decision; he had been stewing on it for quite some time. He also outlined a detailed plan that included a hatched, a two-pound sledgehammer, a rat-tale file, and a butcher’s knife.

Gerry and Cynthia Franklin headed this family of seven. They were parents who, from all accounts, loved their three sons and two daughters: Jeffrey (our killer, the oldest), Sara (14), Stacey (11), Timothy (8), and Christopher (6). They just didn’t know what to do with their eldest, Jeffrey. In the space of two years, he had seemingly morphed from a happy-go-lucky kid into a devil of a teenager.

So, they did what good parents do when they’ve tried everything they know and nothing works; they went to the experts. They sought help from a psychiatrist, who prescribed a cocktail of drugs; Ritalin, Prozac, and Klonopin. Based on the prescribed medications, the doctor must have thought he was depressed, anxious, and had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The psychotropic medications didn’t seem to help. According to Franklin’s defense attorney (who had a motive for diffusing the responsibility for his client’s actions but also had a valid point), the doctor’s response to Franklin’s lack of response was to keep upping the dose. Franklin apparently liked his Ritalin so much that he decided to do a little extra self-medicating, and pretty soon he was taking way more Ritalin than he needed.

When his mom noticed Jeffrey’s meds were running out sooner than they should have, she put them in a lockbox and began keeping tabs. Unfortunately, her son quickly figured out how to get into the lockbox. He also started secretly replacing the missing pills with saccharine tablets.

Gerry and Cynthia next talked to their parish priest, who prayed with them and reassured them that their son was just going through a “phase.” Devout Catholics, I’m sure they desperately wanted to believe their spiritual guide’s reassurances. But, two weeks before the murders, Gerry told a friend that Jeffrey had threatened to kill the whole family. Gerry Franklin was scared.

She had good reason to be. After snorting Ritalin and not sleeping for three days, Jeffrey rounded up his murder weapons and went to work. Gerry and Cynthia died in their home. Eleven-year-old Stacey happened to be at dance class when all hell broke loose, but the other three children suffered horrible life-threatening injuries. By some miracle, they all survived. Neighbors called 9–1–1 when they spotted a young child lying in a puddle of blood in the Franklin’s driveway.

Like most teenagers, Jeffrey was no match for law enforcement. He initially denied knowing anything about the murders but quickly folded as the evidence piled up. He later said he had heard voices telling him to kill his family, but his defense didn’t even try an insanity plea. He pleaded guilty and received fifteen years to life.

International Stalking from Behind Bars?

So far, everything about this story makes some sort of tragic sense. An angry, out-of-control teenager. Struggling parents. Drug abuse. Throw in a little 1990s-style Satan worship and heavy metal music, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

But Jeffrey is no longer a meth-snorting, occult-loving teenager. In 2016, after fifteen years behind bars, he had a shot at freedom. The board denied parole. He was eligible for parole again in 2021. But in July 2021, as he was preparing for it, something else happened; a Scottish woman, Melissa Rogers, reported to police that she had received a terrifying package from American murderer Jeffrey Franklin. It seemed he was stalking her from across the pond.

While we don’t know the contents of this particular package, we do know it scared the hell out of her. It also followed on the heels of receiving thousands of anonymous emails. When Jeffrey Franklin was motivated to get out of prison as soon as possible, why would he torpedo his chances of eventually getting released, especially by tormenting a woman who lived so far away?

Who Pretends to be a Murderer?

While Jeffrey Franklin has plenty to be sorry for, stalking Melissa Rogers isn’t one of them. It turns out that the real predator who was lurking in her shadows was much closer to home. Alas, here is where our story takes an all-too-familiar turn.

While Jeffrey Franklin was securely locked behind barred doors, Melissa’s forty-three-year-old ex-boyfriend, Steven Rose, was running amok. Among his many misdeeds was pretending to be American murderer Jeffrey Franklin to scare his former lover. Besides impersonating Ms. Rogers, Rose seems to have followed the domestic batterer playbook. And it started long before the two of them broke up.

Between May 2019 and August 2020, Rose allegedly engaged in a pattern of controlling and violent behavior that started long before the two broke up. He quizzed her about her whereabouts, monitored her social media use, and often accused her of cheating. He took money without permission and without repaying it. He threatened to end the relationship if she wanted to spend time with friends. He tracked her down at her mother’s if she left home without his “permission.” He claimed to have cancer when she tried to break up.

His escalating behavior became more serious. When Rogers was drunk, Rose took racy photos and videos without permission and later threatened to post them online. He once smashed a glass in a hotel room; another time, he chased her with a baseball bat. He threatened to kill her numerous times, many of these through email. And, toward the end of their relationship, he reportedly engaged in the single most telling behavior in predicting whether or not a person is capable of killing; nonfatal strangulation.

Still Waiting for Justice

Melissa Rogers did her part. She gathered evidence. She went to the police, at one point presenting them with a USB stick that contained thousands of inappropriate and frightening messages. It took prosecutors three days to simply sift through the mountain of digital evidence, which has now been sent back to law enforcement by the courts to reinvestigate before the upcoming trial. A June 13, 2022 article said that, so far, the prosecution of Steven Rose had been crippled by a police investigation “that was so inadequate prosecutors had to step in.”

Under the spotlight of public scrutiny, I think they will.

Originally published at https://joniejohnstonpsyd.substack.com on June 16, 2022.

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Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D.

Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D.

Forensic psychologist/private investigator//author of serial killer book. Passionate about victim’s rights, the psychology of true crime, and criminal justice.