Can a talented composite artist help catch a killer?

Jonathan Francia

Sketches of the suspect – “Jason”

CASE DETAILS

In the fall of 1993, the entire country was touched when 12-year-old Polly Klaas was abducted from her Northern California home and savagely murdered.  Thousands of copies of a composite sketch of the suspect were distributed by police.  In the end, its stunning accuracy helped confirm the identity of the prime suspect, Richard Allen Davis.  Davis is now in jail, charged with the kidnap and murder of Polly Klaas.  Law enforcement’s secret weapon in the Klaas case was composite artist Jeanne Boylan. Without her sketch of Richard Davis, he might still be on the loose.  These days, the FBI and numerous local jurisdictions compete for Jeanne’s time. They know that her drawings can help solve the most difficult cases.

Jeanne Boylan

In the mid-1970s, Jeanne worked at a Sheriff’s Department in Multnomah County, Oregon. The job gave her a close-up look at how suspect sketches were made.  In many cases, Jeanne did not like what she saw:

“I would hear the way that investigators would question witnesses or victims, and I could… hear that they weren’t allowing them to answer. They would cut answers off. It was kind of, ‘Just the facts.’  And that seemed to me to be wrong.”

Jeanne was convinced she could do better, and in 1980, she got her chance.  A supervisor gave Jeanne one of his most difficult cases—an unsolved rape.  According to Jeanne, it was a case that had languished for months with virtually no leads:

“I found that if I used sort of a diversionary system of interviewing where we would kind of circumvent the events of the crime and scenario of the crime, and talk about other topics, I could relax them.  Then periodically, this information would surface.”

Jeanne was right.  As a direct result of her composite, a suspect was arrested and later convicted.  More cases followed and Jeanne’s reputation grew. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the FBI turned to Jeanne in the troubling case of 16-year-old Jonathan Francia.  On January 12, 1994, Jonathan was in his car when he was abducted by two strangers.  Five days later, his body was found in the trunk of his burned-out car.  One of the killers, known only as “Jason,” has yet to be found.

Jonathan’s body was found in a burnt out car

Investigators asked Jeanne to meet with a key witness, Scott Johnston.  Scott had innocently spent several hours with the killers at his home in Winslow, Arizona.  Jeanne instinctively began to assess Scott’s potential as an eyewitness:

“Visual things are very important to him.  He takes some care in the way that he looks, which was the first cue to me that I would be able to work in a visual context with him.  So one thing that I did was I got out some play-doh, something to anchor him in the present, and gave it to him to play with and sort of feel, to keep him in the moment.”

As Scott told his story, Jeanne began to sketch the killer named Jason. Scott had met Jason on January 13, 1994. That day, a friend of Scott’s named Trena Richardson was staying at the trailer, along with her three children. They were awaiting the arrival of Trena’s husband, Paul, who had gone to Alabama. According to Scott, Paul pulled in around 6:00 AM, accompanied by a stranger:

“My first impression of Jason was, oh, boy, this guy dresses like a cowboy.  He had the velvet hat, the long hair and the jacket, and the jeans and kind of worn-out tennis.”

Jeanne’s sketches have solved many crimes

Scott also noticed something strange about Jason’s hands:

“I looked down, I noticed his hand was kind of red, kind of clay type. I thought it was just dirt, but apparently it was blood.”

Scott told Jeanne that he and Trena went out to run errands around 9:00 AM.  When they returned, Paul and Jason were washing the car:

“We came back, pulled up, they saw us, and they shut the trunk. They acted like they didn’t want us to see what was in it.”

At the time, Scott had no idea that the body of Jonathan Francia was in the trunk  An hour later, Trena and Paul said they were leaving to escort Jason to the main highway.  It was the last time Scott would see Jason:

“ I thought he went back, maybe to Dallas, maybe somewhere else, where he told me he was from.”

Jeanne listens closely to eyewitnesses

Four days later, an eyewitness tip led police to a remote corner of the desert, 30 miles from Scott’s trailer.  There they found the burned-out car and Jonathan Francia’s charred remains.  Paul Richardson was arrested two weeks later.  He admitted that he and Jason had abducted and murdered Jonathan.  Two days after his confession, Richardson committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell.  It was now up to Jeanne to help find Jason.  Based on Scott Johnston’s descriptions, Jeanne drew three composite sketches.  According to Scott, the sketches were quite accurate:

“My impression of the composite—it looked pretty much like the same person that I’d seen in the trailer. Pretty, pretty close.  I was amazed at how well, you know, it turned out.”

Jeanne’s sketches of the man called “Jason” have provided some hope for Jonathan Francia’s family.  Authorities believe he has relatives in either Pinetop or Payson, Arizona, and also Dallas, Texas.   Jason is described as 5’10”, with a medium build.  He smokes, chews tobacco, and wears western-style clothes, including a horsehair belt.  He should be regarded as extremely dangerous.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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10 Comments

  1. Ginger White

    Is there anyway I can get ahold of Gil merino.the investigator on the Jonathan Francis case.

    Reply

  2. Crystal

    Does anyone know why Jonathan Francia was abducted? Was it for him (sex)? For his car? What was the reason?

    Reply

  3. Rose

    How can I get more information about this case? Was this victim shot in the head? Was “Jason”‘s eye color brown? Did he have dirty blonde hair? Was “Jason” in early 20s? Is this case drug(meth or crack) related? Was Paul a drug addict? There are some human remains found in Arizona, 1995. Were they all killed in the same manner?

    Reply

  4. Her name is Trena not Trina

  5. Jefff

    I don’t understand why Paul didn’t tell police exatly who Jason i….

    Reply

  6. ernest

    What was AM’s tip has the case been updated with a capture

    Reply

  7. unsolved

    AM – please email us with more information about your tip – unsolved@unsolved.com

    Reply