John Franklin interview
Sunday, July 19, 2020 – 4:41 p.m.
John Franklin is a 65-year-old farmer who owns land that Philip Fontaine wanted to buy.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy talked to him at his residence on County Road 321.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- John Franklin
Detective Murphy: For the record, could you please state your name and address?
John Franklin: My name is John Armstrong Franklin, and I live here on the Franklin Farm.
Detective Murphy: Do you have a legal mailing address?
John Franklin: Write Franklin Farm on the envelope, and it'll get to me.
Detective Armstrong: Thanks for talking to us today, Mr. Franklin. You said you have some information?
John Franklin: I was pulled over by one of your fine young officers a couple days ago. Gave me a speeding ticket.
Detective Murphy: We're sorry to hear that, Mr. Franklin. It's a matter of public safety.
John Franklin: I ain't thought of nothing else since then. I'm not sure I even remember what it was I wanted to tell y'all. When you get to be my age, the mind doesn't always cooperate.
Detective Armstrong: Did you already pay the ticket?
John Franklin: I'll fight it in court. If I need to.
Detective Armstrong: I'm sure you don't need to worry about that right now.
John Franklin: Shame about Fontaine.
Detective Murphy: Philip Fontaine?
John Franklin: All of them really, but he's the one I meant.
Detective Murphy: What about him?
John Franklin: He's dead. You must've heard.
Detective Murphy: Yes.
John Franklin: He wanted to buy my farm, even though it's been in my family for generations. Wanted to tear everything down and put up who knows what. The man had no sense of history or tradition.
Detective Armstrong: You refused to sell?
John Franklin: I raised the asking price. Three times. Wasn't sure how high he'd go.
Detective Armstrong: Weren't you afraid the deal would fall through?
John Franklin: Fontaine was too hungry, like a gator that got a taste of his own tail. Besides, there was Coleman.
Detective Murphy: Coleman?
John Franklin: Bruno Coleman. He ain't hungry. He's bitter.
Detective Armstrong: What about Coleman?
John Franklin: That one's a gator who lost his tail. When you work the land, you learn a few things about life. You learn what nature knows, to seek out weakness.
Detective Murphy: So Fontaine was hungry, and Coleman was bitter. So what?
John Franklin: Coleman paid me to be unreasonable. He didn't want Fontaine getting the land.
Detective Armstrong: You were playing them off each other.
John Franklin: I don't want to be yanking weeds when I'm 66.
Detective Murphy: Were you ever going to sell to Fontaine?
John Franklin: The situation was a little more complicated than just Coleman and Fontaine.
Detective Murphy: How do you mean?
John Franklin: A third party was also interested in the sale.
Detective Armstrong: Who?
John Franklin: About that speeding ticket. How do you get something like that out of the computer?
Detective Armstrong: You show up at court. Maybe you get lucky, and the judge dismisses the case.
John Franklin: I have to go to court?
Detective Armstrong: No. You could just pay the ticket.
John Franklin: I got Fontaine shoveling money through my front door, Coleman shoveling it through my back door, and then someone else starts tapping at the window.
Detective Murphy: Go on.
John Franklin: Lady Fontaine is tired of Oxford, Mississippi. She wants to leave this backwater and see the world.
Detective Murphy: What did she want from you?
John Franklin: She asked me not to sell. If Fontaine got my farm and the project went ahead, they'd be trapped here for years. She couldn't wait that long to get out.
Detective Armstrong: Did she pay you too?
John Franklin: She did at that.
Detective Murphy: Do you know where she got the money to pay you?
John Franklin: Said she'd buy jewelry and then return it. Said Fontaine didn't notice that he never saw it again.
Detective Armstrong: Was there anybody who wasn't giving you money?
John Franklin: Neither of y'all have offered yet.
Detective Armstrong: Don't hold your breath. So one person was paying you to sell, and two were paying you not to. Did any of them know about the others?
John Franklin: Coleman and the missus knew about Fontaine, of course. Coleman wasn't too happy with how I was handling the situation. He wanted me to say no flat out, not string Fontaine along. But where's the money in that?
Detective Murphy: So when you were raising the asking price, Fontaine was paying you the difference upfront?
John Franklin: As an advance against possible future considerations. I'm not going to live forever.
Detective Murphy: The day of his death, Philip Fontaine withdrew $15,000 from the bank. Did he bring that money to you that night, by any chance?
John Franklin: That would have been awkward. I was entertaining Mr. Coleman at the time.
Detective Armstrong: Bruno Coleman was here the night Philip Fontaine was killed?
John Franklin: He showed up with a bottle of bourbon and tried to convince me to flat out laugh in Fontaine's face. I think Coleman was afraid I might double-cross him.
Detective Murphy: When did he arrive?
John Franklin: A little after 5:00. And before you ask, he didn't leave until after midnight.
Detective Armstrong: Did he pay you to say this?
John Franklin: You think he might? I'll have to give him a call.
Detective Murphy: Was Mr. Coleman with you the entire time?
John Franklin: I had to leave the room a few times, what with my bladder, so Coleman wasn't in my sight every minute. But he didn't leave if that's what you're asking.
Detective Armstrong: You drank together for seven hours? He could have told you what he wanted in just a few minutes and been on his way.
John Franklin: He tried that before. Now he was trying something different. I'm not going to refuse the man's bourbon.
Detective Murphy: Was Coleman interested in buying your farm?
John Franklin: Not that he ever said. He only wanted to cause trouble for Fontaine. Someone else did him one better.
Detective Armstrong: Any idea who?
John Franklin: No. I'm just a simple farmer. I leave the detecting to you professionals.
Detective Murphy: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
John Franklin: One hand washes the other.
Interview ended – 5:06 p.m.