Defendant in "no body" trial found guilty of murder - - Columbia, South Carolina

Defendant in "no body" trial found guilty of murder

Jeffrey Weston Jeffrey Weston
Frances Franchey Frances Franchey

(Columbia) May 30, 2003 - A 43-year-old former Columbia man was Friday afternoon found guilty of killing his mother. A Richland County jury deliberated for only a few hours Friday afternoon before finding Jeffrey Weston guilty of murder. Weston was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The body of Frances Franchey, who disappeared in 1998 when she was 78 and living with Weston in the Harbison area, has never been found. The case marks the first time someone has been found guilty of murder in Richland County in a case in which the victim's body was never recovered.

Weston's lawyers rested Friday without calling any witnesses and without any testimony from Weston. No alibi was given for Weston nor was an explanation of his behavior around the time his mother disappeared. Any testimony he would have provided, though, would have been open to cross examination.

Prosecutors, despite the absence of the alleged victim's body and without any sort of confession, built their case on an extensive amount of circumstantial evidence. Assistant Solicitor Luck Campbell told the jury, "I submit, ladies and gentlemen, when Jeffrey Weston killed his 78-year-old mother, cleaned up her blood, got rid of her body, calmly, cooly and then lied about it, said she ran off with somebody. That reeks of malice."

The prosecution says the removal of some flooring in the apartment which they attribute to Weston, his mother's blood found in the unit and Weston's abrupt move from the area to Seattle, were the work of a guilty man.

Jeffrey Weston, was born Jeffrey Franchey in Weston, Connecticut. Prosecutors say in 1991 Franchey had her son involuntarily committed to a state mental facility after he threatened to kill her. His behavior would again come under question in 1997 when authorities charged him with unlawful use of a telephone.

Prosecutors say Weston and his mother clashed over the use of her car. She refused to allow him to drive it, in part because he had no license. Investigators say a few days after Franchey disappeared, Weston admitted driving the Ford Escort.

Weston's sister, Toni Franchey, testified that after hearing her mother was missing, she immediately suspected her brother.

By Jack Kuenzie
updated 4:16pm by Chris Rees

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