Earlier today a 52-year-old man was found guilty of the murder of a Westfield woman in 1976, announced Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow. Because of the nature of the crime and facts that existed at the time of the crimes, the case was presented in Union County Juvenile Court.
Carlton Franklin (DOB 8/24/60) was arrested in April 2012 after the cold case unit of the Union County Homicide Task Force reopened the 1976 homicide of Lena Triano. Agent Vinnie Byron and Sgt. Harvey Barnwell of the Homicide Task Force uncovered forensic evidence that could be tested with modern investigative techniques.
That led investigators to Franklin, who was arrested quickly after the Prosecutor’s Office Forensic Laboratory identified him as a suspect, said Romankow.
The case was particularly challenging for prosecutors who, under state law, had to handle the case according to the laws of 1976, when Franklin was just 15 years old.
Additionally, the names of defendants in juvenile cases are not released, but given the suspect’s current age, the Prosecutor’s Office petitioned Judge Robert Kirsch to publicly release Franklin’s name. Additionally since Franklin was 15 in 1976, prosecutors had to apply the 1976 waiver statute, meaning he could not have been waived to adult court.
In his ruling, issued this afternoon, Judge Kirsch found Franklin delinquent in that he raped and murdered Ms. Triano.
The case was successfully prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutors Bruce Holmes and Jeremiah Lenihan.
Triano, 57, lived alone inside her Ripley Place home in Westfield and was discovered hog-tied, raped, strangled, beaten, and stabbed multiple times in March 1976. For years her killer remained a mystery and an unanswered question in Westfield.
“The Homicide Task Force has worked tirelessly on investigations since its inception in 2008, and that has not been limited to current cases,” said Romankow. “Agent Byron has looked into a number of cases from long ago in the hopes of solving cold cases. This was a perfect example of old fashioned shoe leather investigating and modern technology coming together for a great resolution.”
Franklin is being held in custody and will be sentenced on January 31, 2013. In 1976, the Juvenile Code allows for in the case of a homicide, that sentencing should be indeterminate not to exceed life.