MI ERIC FRANKS: Missing from Saginaw, MI - 21 March 2011 - Age 38

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
Interesting twist to the man who passed away.... He left $2.7 million to city police, fire, and Red Cross.




SAGINAW, Mich. (WJRT) - $1.8 million dollars is a lot of money.

That’s how much Saginaw’s public safety departments are getting from a man who recently passed away.

Gerald Rutledge was 84 years old when he died in April.

His name has come up in a recent news story. We will get to that in just a bit.

But for now, his generosity is taking center stage.

“He had a guardianship, through the public guardian’s office, and they let us know when he passed away, and it was our job to clean out the house and get it sold as part of the estate,” says Jim Thomas.

Thomas is an elder law attorney with the law office of Carol Thomas and handled the estate of Gerald Rutledge, who lived in a modest west side Saginaw home until he passed away in April. Rutledge had dementia. He died with a lot of money.

“I believe an hourly employee at GM, and he didn’t have any children or anything like that, and didn’t seem to spend a lot of money, just accumulated that through his life,” says Thomas.

Thomas says Rutledge is leaving $2.7 million-dollars to three entities.

“The three different charities the money is going to, the American Red Cross-Saginaw Chapter, the Saginaw Police Department and the Saginaw Fire Department,” Thomas says.

$900-thousand will go to the police department and another $900-thousand will go to the fire department. The two department’s budgets for the next fiscal year shows the significance of the gifts, the $900-thousand is more than ten percent of the fire budget. Thomas says his mother Carol remembers why Rutledge, who made the will in 2006, wanted to leave so much money to public safety.

“She recalls, she thinks his dad my have been either part of the fire department, or part of the police department,” Thomas says.

Thomas says the gifts should be delivered to the three entities in the next month or two.

“We’ve had clients leave a few thousand dollars here and there, something like that, but not this amount,” he says

I spoke with or texted some city officials today about the money, but they were not completely aware of the gifts and they did not want to comment at this time.

News of the gifts to the three entities happens as Rutledge’s home became the center of a cold case missing persons investigation.

Michigan State Police believe Rutledge’s garage was used to store a car that has been missing from the Bridgeport area. The car, and its owner, Eric Franks vanished in March 2011. The car was found in Clare on Tuesday. It had been purchased by a man in an estate sale held after Rutledge died. The car is now at the MSP Crime Lab.

Police do not believe Rutledge had knowledge that the car was in his garage.
I'll bet this kind man would have been horrified to know Eric's car was in his garage and that his family has been looking for him for almost a decade!
 

GrandmaBear

‘We Have Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself'
Call me cynical but my first thought is who did this will or helped him and when is it dated? The previous articles have him with dementia, the woman and bank (and I would think an attorney) facing some scrutiny on how his money was handled when alive... Sorry but a very odd case, I hope it is solidly looked into... I am still wondering about the sale of the car and a title quite honestly...
 

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
Call me cynical but my first thought is who did this will or helped him and when is it dated? The previous articles have him with dementia, the woman and bank (and I would think an attorney) facing some scrutiny on how his money was handled when alive... Sorry but a very odd case, I hope it is solidly looked into... I am still wondering about the sale of the car and a title quite honestly...
It doesn't sound like she was there much longer after Eric went missing. I think they moved away, but I don't remember when. And then she died of cancer.I just wonder what the other caretakers that he had after that were thinking about that car? I guess they just assumed it was one of his.
 

GrandmaBear

‘We Have Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself'
It doesn't sound like she was there much longer after Eric went missing. I think they moved away, but I don't remember when. And then she died of cancer.I just wonder what the other caretakers that he had after that were thinking about that car? I guess they just assumed it was one of his.
Yeah, I don't know the case like you do. It does ring bells though. When I read the roller skating thing, it really ran a distant bell.

I just figure if someone was taking advantage of him then wanted to not be looked at if suspicions were up, make the will something that gives to the investigating agencies and public agencies, sure does look good... I am probably way off base from not knowing the case and timeline--I don't know the time frame, details and more... Just saying I hope his will was done with solid proof that he wanted it the way it was, was capable of said decisions, etc. I found it interesting the ones it was given to have no comment thus far... Again though, I am jumping there without knowing the timeline or enough details, etc.

If his car was found there after all of these years, pristine, and never moved nor realized, maybe they want to take a good look at the home, concrete, basement, etc. Park the car, take care of the body, all inside where a man lived that was not aware apparently of what was going on in his home...?
 

Skitt

Well-known member
This article has a bit of the timeline. I'm sure someone was keeping a close eye on the man's finances:


Court records show Firmingham, the woman who had a child with Franks, was a caretaker for Rutledge. But in March 2011, just a few weeks before Franks was last seen, Guardianship Services of Saginaw documents indicate there were suspicions of how Rutledge’s money was being spent.

In one entry, on March 2, 2011, three weeks before Franks was last seen, a guardianship employee writes “spoke with Kendra how she is paid. Mr. Rutledge paid the home-care service that she owns one year in advance on on advice of his banker.”

Rutledge’s banker at that time could not be reached for comment, but an elder law attorney said that is not a customary practice in a guardianship to pay for services in advance.
====
This blog has a fairly accurate description of the timeline of events:
This was an interesting tidbit:
The cell phone Eric owned before he vanished proved to be useful. It apparently continued to make calls long after the last time anyone had seen Eric alive. One of the calls made was reportedly to a dental office. When questioned by authorities they said they never had a patient by the name of Eric Franks but they had taken care of Kendra and her family.
 

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
This article has a bit of the timeline. I'm sure someone was keeping a close eye on the man's finances:


Court records show Firmingham, the woman who had a child with Franks, was a caretaker for Rutledge. But in March 2011, just a few weeks before Franks was last seen, Guardianship Services of Saginaw documents indicate there were suspicions of how Rutledge’s money was being spent.

In one entry, on March 2, 2011, three weeks before Franks was last seen, a guardianship employee writes “spoke with Kendra how she is paid. Mr. Rutledge paid the home-care service that she owns one year in advance on on advice of his banker.”

Rutledge’s banker at that time could not be reached for comment, but an elder law attorney said that is not a customary practice in a guardianship to pay for services in advance.
====
This blog has a fairly accurate description of the timeline of events:
This was an interesting tidbit:
The cell phone Eric owned before he vanished proved to be useful. It apparently continued to make calls long after the last time anyone had seen Eric alive. One of the calls made was reportedly to a dental office. When questioned by authorities they said they never had a patient by the name of Eric Franks but they had taken care of Kendra and her family.
Wanna place bets on whether or not Rutledge ever got the benefits of that paid in advance service?

I remember the situation with the cell phone. It made me angry that there wasn't an arrest of some kind based on that alone!
 

GrandmaBear

‘We Have Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself'
This article has a bit of the timeline. I'm sure someone was keeping a close eye on the man's finances:


Court records show Firmingham, the woman who had a child with Franks, was a caretaker for Rutledge. But in March 2011, just a few weeks before Franks was last seen, Guardianship Services of Saginaw documents indicate there were suspicions of how Rutledge’s money was being spent.

In one entry, on March 2, 2011, three weeks before Franks was last seen, a guardianship employee writes “spoke with Kendra how she is paid. Mr. Rutledge paid the home-care service that she owns one year in advance on on advice of his banker.”

Rutledge’s banker at that time could not be reached for comment, but an elder law attorney said that is not a customary practice in a guardianship to pay for services in advance.
====
This blog has a fairly accurate description of the timeline of events:
This was an interesting tidbit:
The cell phone Eric owned before he vanished proved to be useful. It apparently continued to make calls long after the last time anyone had seen Eric alive. One of the calls made was reportedly to a dental office. When questioned by authorities they said they never had a patient by the name of Eric Franks but they had taken care of Kendra and her family.
That is a thorough and interesting read, thank you! A couple of things--both mother and daughter got this aggressive cancer at the same time? That paragraph did not make total sense to me. And then the husband had a plane that disappeared around the same time as Franks? And they determined it could not dump a body? That sounds really strange. Finally, it is a shame so much time went on before anyone realized, no one's fault, just a shame. A friends saw him threatened, the motel manager saw her removing his things, etc.

And then if this daughter was 15 before he knew, I am surprised she told him then when he asked. Clearly, she had not wanted him involved until then or one would think she would have looked for him and/or for child support... Why did she come clean and one would think she would have to tell the daughter at that point if she had not as well. Was it ever determined to be fact he was her father? This woman sounds a bit like a scam artist when considering the other man's money and all... It also sounds like she may have been, at least at first, playing these men against each other...

So around the time Franks disappears, the money situation is also being looked at...

And they continue to use his cell phone for a long time and no arrests were ever made?? How was the bill paid for this?? Was any pressure even put on them?? They just flee to Florida and that's it?

Did the daughter survive if they both had this aggressive breast cancer? I would think one day she would maybe decide she wants her father found.

Finally, so Franks was telling his mother he was going to have a new place where cell reception would not be great... And basically forewarned her he may be somewhat out of touch, that is a bit odd. I assume they are sure this was him saying this uncoerced...? Who turned him onto this property or home he was going to move to or rent...? I assume they searched that and found it...

Just thoughts based on the article...
 

Skitt

Well-known member
G'ma Bear, the daughter is still alive, in Florida last I knew. I don't believe there was ever a paternity test to confirm he was the bio father, it was what Kendra had told him.

There's a FB page Find Eric Lee Franks, with a lot of posts from Eric's Mom that give more info that is not in most articles. Here is one of her posts:
Most likely, from what I have heard, the girl's mother (Kendra) believed Eric came from a family with a lot of money.... she was mony hungry,IMO and was using him.



Article from May 2014 on the mother/daughter's cancer (Daily Mail is not my fav source): Mother and daughter, 18, diagnosed with same aggressive breast cancer
-diagnosed within 3 months of each other.

re the plane: New developments in 2011 missing persons case
Another lead involves an airplane that Firmingham's husband owned, which was sold after Franks vanished. The plane has been found in Mississippi and police there will search it for evidence.


-----
another update (some excerpts here)

Investigators today had some concrete in that garage cut up, but its not clear if they found anything. We also spoke with the California woman who gave investigators this big break in the cold case.

“Back in 2018, (the t-v show) “Disappeared” did an episode on Eric and I have been following it ever since,” says Miranda Bofman.

She is a Sacramento State University senior studying criminal justice, and while it appeared that Eric Franks' missing car was possibly scrapped and would never be found, she had an idea.

“Maybe his vehicle isn’t actually destroyed, maybe its somewhere out there,” she thought.

She works at an automotive repair place and knew that the company Carfax would automatically email her if a certain car she inquired about would have any type of service activity. Two years ago, she entered the plate number on Eric’s car with Carfax, got nothing at first, but late last month, she got a surprise.

“I got a notification on my phone asking how my service was for my 2001 Malibu, I said wait a second, I don’t have a, oh my gosh, no way, no way, this can’t happen,” she says.

Franks' car was part of the Rutledge estate sale. In a part of the garage that a cadaver dog searched today, an area that appears to have an altered part of the garage floor was examined. Its not clear what the dog or investigators found in the search. Bofman is hoping the Franks' family gets answers.
 

GrandmaBear

‘We Have Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself'
@Skitt wow i did not mean to put you to so much work but you provided a wealth of information for me to understand the case. Thank you! I looked earlier for an obituary and found this which I find very strange and it came up near the top of my search. It seems like it was interpreted judging by the very strange wording but why would an obit have been in a foreign language to begin with? It might sound crazy but are they sure this woman is dead? Even in the article you quoted above it said "reportedly" passed away. What is that?, since when does someone reportedly pass away? I feel very sorry for this man's mother and family and hope they get answers and justice. Here is this odd obituary I came across:

 

Skitt

Well-known member
@Skitt wow i did not mean to put you to so much work but you provided a wealth of information for me to understand the case. Thank you! I looked earlier for an obituary and found this which I find very strange and it came up near the top of my search. It seems like it was interpreted judging by the very strange wording but why would an obit have been in a foreign language to begin with? It might sound crazy but are they sure this woman is dead? Even in the article you quoted above it said "reportedly" passed away. What is that?, since when does someone reportedly pass away? I feel very sorry for this man's mother and family and hope they get answers and justice. Here is this odd obituary I came across:

That's the weirdest translation, too

I don't remember the details, but there was quite a bit of confusion on FB pages when she died. I think even some of her relatives doubted it was real. Eventually, it was confirmed to be true, but that's all I can remember about it. [found a post at WS/Jonestown where his mother says "..some very close family say they question her death to be true"]

This is one of the obituaries I remember, very short:

You might find this post by his Mom to be interesting regarding the money angle:


Eric's Mom: In 2011 I was not able to protect my grown up child. He was lured to Saginaw, MI by Kendra when she told Eric she had given birth to his daughter almost 16 years earlier. She and her husband needed extra money due to a lawsuit concerning the death of an elderly man in their care, I was told. The couple told our family and the police they thought Eric had money to leave to their daughter. Eric had never had biological children and was overjoyed to find out he had a daughter. He was lured into a trap that cost him his life.
 

GrandmaBear

‘We Have Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself'
That's the weirdest translation, too

I don't remember the details, but there was quite a bit of confusion on FB pages when she died. I think even some of her relatives doubted it was real. Eventually, it was confirmed to be true, but that's all I can remember about it. [found a post at WS/Jonestown where his mother says "..some very close family say they question her death to be true"]

This is one of the obituaries I remember, very short:

You might find this post by his Mom to be interesting regarding the money angle:


Eric's Mom: In 2011 I was not able to protect my grown up child. He was lured to Saginaw, MI by Kendra when she told Eric she had given birth to his daughter almost 16 years earlier. She and her husband needed extra money due to a lawsuit concerning the death of an elderly man in their care, I was told. The couple told our family and the police they thought Eric had money to leave to their daughter. Eric had never had biological children and was overjoyed to find out he had a daughter. He was lured into a trap that cost him his life.
Wow. I thought all would think I was nuts when I asked if she was really dead. The vibe of this case just takes one there... She sounds like a total scammer and liar for one and for both she and the daughter to get this disease... Then I ran into that very strange obituary...

So the mom says they had a lawsuit and needed money about an elderly man that died...? This was another man they took "care" of? Because the one where the car was found died more recently right?

There is no real reason for this either but just in reading things this case thus far, it also gives me a vibe of was someone paid off...? Back when...? It wouldn't have to be everyone but this woman seems to have escaped justice with questions as well on the money with the homebound man, etc... And now that man has left everything to public agencies... I have some other thoughts but they are just wild speculation so I won't go there...

I know we have come a long way with security cams and cell phone pings but Eric had a cell phone that was still active... The manager saw her removing Eric's things... It may perhaps not be enough for an arrest but they flee to Florida and voila, just that's it? Not saying all are rich who have one but her husband had a plane and that could indicate some money... How connected in their area and to who I wonder was this couple...? How is it she came to take care of these men either...?

It sounds like she was using his phone to not have things traced to hers like calls to salvage yards, etc... Now why would she do that with medical or dental type calls? That seems a bit strange unless she just did not have a phone... And again, how was his phone bill being paid? The other part that stands out is the pest control places??? What is she looking for and why...? Not that it is odd to need pest control, I think most of us at some point in our lives have had a home or a reason for calling such a place with a question or for a quote... However, considering this was the victim's phone and she seems suspect, I wonder...

Thanks so much Skitt for all of the info.
 

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
G'ma Bear, the daughter is still alive, in Florida last I knew. I don't believe there was ever a paternity test to confirm he was the bio father, it was what Kendra had told him.

There's a FB page Find Eric Lee Franks, with a lot of posts from Eric's Mom that give more info that is not in most articles. Here is one of her posts:
Most likely, from what I have heard, the girl's mother (Kendra) believed Eric came from a family with a lot of money.... she was mony hungry,IMO and was using him.



Article from May 2014 on the mother/daughter's cancer (Daily Mail is not my fav source): Mother and daughter, 18, diagnosed with same aggressive breast cancer
-diagnosed within 3 months of each other.

re the plane: New developments in 2011 missing persons case
Another lead involves an airplane that Firmingham's husband owned, which was sold after Franks vanished. The plane has been found in Mississippi and police there will search it for evidence.


-----
another update (some excerpts here)

Investigators today had some concrete in that garage cut up, but its not clear if they found anything. We also spoke with the California woman who gave investigators this big break in the cold case.

“Back in 2018, (the t-v show) “Disappeared” did an episode on Eric and I have been following it ever since,” says Miranda Bofman.

She is a Sacramento State University senior studying criminal justice, and while it appeared that Eric Franks' missing car was possibly scrapped and would never be found, she had an idea.

“Maybe his vehicle isn’t actually destroyed, maybe its somewhere out there,” she thought.

She works at an automotive repair place and knew that the company Carfax would automatically email her if a certain car she inquired about would have any type of service activity. Two years ago, she entered the plate number on Eric’s car with Carfax, got nothing at first, but late last month, she got a surprise.

“I got a notification on my phone asking how my service was for my 2001 Malibu, I said wait a second, I don’t have a, oh my gosh, no way, no way, this can’t happen,” she says.

Franks' car was part of the Rutledge estate sale. In a part of the garage that a cadaver dog searched today, an area that appears to have an altered part of the garage floor was examined. Its not clear what the dog or investigators found in the search. Bofman is hoping the Franks' family gets answers.
I thought they did verify she was his daughter, but have no idea if I saw that somewhere or if I assumed it. I also believe that Eric's mom reached out to the supposed granddaughter and she refused to meet with her.
 

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