Crime

Detective: Modesto murder defendant showed “very little” emotion over girlfriend’s grave condition

Tom Franks showed “very little” emotion when he was told his girlfriend might not survive her gunshot wounds, according to a detective’s testimony Tuesday.

Franks is on trial, accused of shooting to death Jacqueline Millan. She was shot outside a west Modesto home about 9:40 p.m. May 4, 2012. The 48-year-old woman died at a hospital six days later.

Stanislaus County sheriff’s Detective Frank Soria testified Tuesday that he told Franks his girlfriend might die from her injuries. The detective said Franks kind of looked around the room and waited a bit before he sighed.

During cross-examination, the detective said he would have noted in his report if Franks had been overly emotional when he was told of his girlfriend’s grave condition. Soria also said an overly emotional response wouldn’t have appeared suspicious.

Millan was shot while standing near the edge of a driveway of a home in the 1600 block of Vernon Avenue, a few blocks northeast of Paradise and Carpenter roads. Millan and Franks had been renovating the house.

Investigators did not find the gun used to kill Millan, despite a thorough search of the Vernon Avenue house, Soria told the jury. Franks told investigators he went back into the house after he heard gunshots and remained there until deputies found him inside and took him into custody.

But investigators did recover a pistol holster that could have been used to hold a handgun inside or outside someone’s waistband.

Floriberto Aguilar, a neighbor, testified last week that he heard Millan arguing with Franks, and that he could see her standing near the driveway. He said he then saw the silhouette of a tall, skinny man running out of alley toward Millan moments before he heard three shots fired. Then he heard footsteps on gravel leaving the area, Aguilar told the jury.

Aguilar has testified that he never saw Franks with a gun, but on a previous occasion, he saw the defendant with a fake gun that looked real.

Initially, Franks told investigators that Millan had been involved in a fight earlier that night with two people at another home along Paradise Road. The defendant said he was asleep in the Vernon Avenue home when the shooting occurred outside and didn’t hear anything, including sirens or deputies investigating the shooting around the home.

After he was arrested and booked at the Stanislaus County Jail, he asked to speak to investigators again. Soria met with Franks at the jail. Soria took the defendant to the sheriff’s headquarters, where Franks was questioned a second time.

Soria testified Tuesday that Franks told investigators he and Millan had argued earlier that night at a Paradise Road home. He said he left and went to the Vernon Avenue home. Millan showed up later, he said, banging on his door and accusing him of cheating with another woman.

Soria testified that Franks said a struggle ensued, and Millan was swinging at him on the home’s front porch. The struggle moved to the home’s front yard before Franks bear-hugged her, the defendant told Soria. Franks said he heard a gunshot before he let go of Millan and went back in the house, according to the detective’s testimony.

Franks told Soria he last saw Millan walking toward the street. The defendant told the detective he went to sleep and didn’t check on Millan. “He stated he was in shock, had moments of blackout and didn’t know what happened,” Soria testified.

The detective also said Franks never told him that he shot Millan, saw her hit by gunfire or saw her bleeding.

Franks spoke about a man called “Gangster Rick.” The defendant told Soria that Millan was disputing a debt owed to this unidentified man. The detective testified that he didn’t learn anything else about “Gangster Rick.”

Testimony in the trial is expected to continue Thursday in Stanislaus Superior Court.

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