True Confessions?

Seventeen years ago, Charles Raby said he killed an old lady. Now he's not so sure.

Around 6:30 p.m., according to a police statement from Karianne Wright's older brother, their father ran Raby off from their house on West Hardy Road, just a mile from the scene of the murder. Shortly afterward, he and his mother drove past Raby on the road, closer still to Franklin's house, and headed that way.

Linda McClain called her mother around 6:20 p.m. Franklin was alone in the house. She assured McClain that all the doors were locked. They spoke for about 25 minutes.

The sun set at 6:51 that day. Phillips lived down the street from Franklin with his grandmother, Mary Alice Scott. Scott heard a knock on the door as it was getting dark and, peering out her door, saw Raby step off her driveway and onto the street, wearing dark jeans and a black jacket.

No physical evidence tied Charles Raby to the murder. He and his lawyers found out only recently that someone else's blood was beneath the victim's fingernails.
No physical evidence tied Charles Raby to the murder. He and his lawyers found out only recently that someone else's blood was beneath the victim's fingernails.
Attorney Sarah Frazier thought she'd be little more than a rubber stamp on Raby's impending execution. Instead, she has found blood and DNA evidence that suggests someone else may have killed Edna Mae Franklin.
Chris Curry
Attorney Sarah Frazier thought she'd be little more than a rubber stamp on Raby's impending execution. Instead, she has found blood and DNA evidence that suggests someone else may have killed Edna Mae Franklin.

Leo Truitt's house sits directly behind Franklin's. His brother-in-law, Martin Doyle, pulled into the driveway around 8 p.m. Doyle saw a white male in a dark jacket, with dark but not black hair, like Raby, and a similar build, walk through Truitt's yard. He hopped the chain-link fence in front, then headed east toward Irvington. Doyle and Truitt followed in Doyle's truck and confronted him.

The street was not well lit. The man turned his head to the side, as if to avoid being seen. He said he was taking a short cut, because there had been an "accident" on the next street. He put his hands in the pockets of his coat and opened it, to show he hadn't stolen anything. Then he walked off into the night.

Allen observed that the blinds on Benge's bedroom window were partly raised, as if someone had crawled through. He found fresh woodchips on the window sill. The bottom of the screen was pulled about two inches from the wall — and Benge said he had nailed it that afternoon.

The screen was off because a friend named Edward Bangs, who was intermittently staying on the couch, had recently painted the house. According to the offense report, Benge told police that Bangs and Raby were the only people who knew that his bedroom window had a broken pane and could easily be opened.

(Raby vehemently denies this, pointing out that he moved away in 1988. Rose and Benge now say most of their friends, including Raby, knew of the window. "Some very shady people were becoming aware of the window," Bangs, who is in prison, said in a recent letter to the Houston Press.)

Benge testified that he finished work, stopped at a friend's house for a shower, then went to his girlfriend's house from 7 until 9:45 p.m.

He came home to an odd scene in the front yard. In addition to the open doors and dark house, the three dogs — two of which stayed behind a fence in back — were loose in the front.

As he walked in, Benge stumbled on what he guessed were clothes. He entered Franklin's room. The dogs went straight out the back door, which was unlocked and open. He locked it, then noticed the contents of his grandmother's purse scattered on the ground. Thinking the dogs had knocked over the purse, and that his grandmother might be in the bathroom on the other side of the house, he said, he picked up the purse and its contents and placed them on the bed. He also closed the dresser drawers, which looked as if someone had rifled through them.

Benge walked back into the kitchen and turned on the light, which, when he pulled back the partition, revealed his grandmother, lying on her side. He thought she had been shot and rolled her onto her back to check for bullet holes and try CPR.

"I jumped up and was getting ready to run off into the front bedroom. I was going to call the police and paramedics. About that time my cousin showed up at the door," Benge testified. "He came in and I started hollering to go call somebody, and I knelt back down beside her. He went kind of like, I guess, freaked out a little bit, too, but we managed to get to the phone and we, you know, dialed 911 for some help. And pretty much all I can remember is being — my arms and hands all being covered in blood from trying to find out what was wrong with her."
_____________________

On the night of the murder, Merry Alice Wilkin says, she received a call from Raby around 10 p.m. She could tell that Raby was drunk by the way he laughed and joked around.

Wilkin remembers Raby as a caring boyfriend who wanted to be a father to her newborn son. He stayed with her at the hospital and brought her a rocking chair that she has to this day. The two met through a mutual friend when Raby was in jail for the fight with his stepdad. They stayed in touch when he went back for the robbery. Wilkin says his release date — 8-10-92 — remains an anniversary for her.

"People could take it, well, 'They didn't have much time together.' But it was all these letters. All these years," she says.

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