Las Vegas police say video footage from two businesses appears to show Mark Franta early Sunday morning near where his 49-year-old wife’s body was discovered several hours later, according to an arrest report released Thursday.
The report says a resident looked out a second-floor window about 7:30 a.m. Sunday and saw a person lying on the ground behind the Albertsons at Craig Road and Tenaya Way, in the northwest valley.
Authorities later identified the body as that of Marybeth Franta, a Molasky Junior High School science teacher.
Franta was reported missing by her husband later that day. Mark Franta told police he last saw her driving away in her 2002 Mazda Tribute on her way to a wedding Saturday afternoon. She didn’t come home that night, the husband told police.
Parking lot surveillance video from the Albertsons shows a man at 1:30 a.m. Sunday who appears to be Mark Franta getting out of a Mazda Tribute and walking west toward Tenaya. Video from a Short Line Express Market a about mile south of the Albertsons shows Mark Franta in that store at 1:45 a.m.
Partially because of the video footage, police believe Marybeth Franta did return to her home near Torrey Pines Drive and Flamingo Road after the wedding. The two argued, they say, and Mark Franta, who had been drinking, killed her.
"Franta loaded her body into the back of their Mazda Tribute, a front wheel drive vehicle, drove her to the desert behind the Albertsons, dumped her body out of the rear of the vehicle," the report said. "Franta drove the vehicle to the front of the Albertsons, left the vehicle unlocked and Marybeth’s purse inside, and walked away, subsequently stopping at the Short Line Express during his walk home."
It’s about a nine-mile walk from the Albertsons to the Franta’s Spring Valley home.
Mark Franta, 50, was arrested Wednesday afternoon and booked into the Clark County Detention Center on no bail. He is expected to appear in court today on a murder charge.
The Clark County coroner’s office said Marybeth Franta died from asphyxiation and ruled her death a homicide. She also suffered blunt force trauma over a substantial portion of her body.
The report said police interviewed Patty Coleman, a friend of the teacher, who attended the wedding with her Saturday. She told police Marybeth Franta gave her a ride home from the wedding about 6:30 p.m.
Mark Franta on Monday told police he attended the grand opening of a friend’s motorcycle shop on Saturday. The report said he was drinking alcohol at the opening, and he acknowledged that his drinking caused problems in his marriage.
He said his wife called him at about 7 p.m. and told him she was going to a stable near North Tenaya Way and Deer Springs Way to check on her horses.
Mark Franta told police he left the grand opening about 8:30 p.m., and called his wife several times but her cell phone always went to voice mail.
The report said he told police that at 11:30 p.m., he left his home and began walking to the stable — 12 miles away — because he was intoxicated. He told police he made it to Smoke Ranch Road, but then turned back.
Police have not confirmed that Franta went to the shop opening but do know he was stopped and questioned by two officers at about 3:19 a.m. Sunday as he was walking on the overpass at Rainbow Boulevard and U.S. Highway 95. They reported that he appeared intoxicated but let him go.
Franta later didn’t deny being at the Albertsons or the market at the time he was video taped there, but couldn’t explain how he happened to be there, police said.
The news of Marybeth Franta’s death has not only shocked students and colleagues at Molasky, but also the horse riding community in Las Vegas. She was a former director with the Nevada State Horseman’s Association. She rode a chestnut-colored horse named Gabriel.
Mary Figueras, who met Marybeth Franta because of their mutual hobby of horseback riding, said she was a kind soul.
"She was a great person," Figueras said. "She didn’t deserve to die like this."
Figueras, who knew Franta for almost four years, said she has never known Mark Franta to display any behavior that would indicate he was capable of killing his wife of more than 20 years. However, Marybeth Franta did tell her that Mark, an iron worker, had recently lost his job, and that his unemployment had caused friction in their marriage.
Figueras said her friend was unlike most.
"You always hear when someone dies they become a saint," Figueras said. "Marybeth was kind of a saint before. I never heard anyone say anything bad about her."
A visitation for Marybeth Franta is open to the public today from noon until 6 p.m. at Palm Mortuary, 7400 W. Cheyenne Ave., Las Vegas.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.