Neighbors said he was “gentle” and “totally innocent.” So they have difficulty comprehending 38-year-old Kevin Franchow’s last moments — beaten up, his glasses knocked off by a punch to the face, and shot several times in the back in a park near his house.
“It’s hard to say anything about it because it just doesn’t make any sense,” said Franchow’s next-door neighbor, Richard. He wouldn’t give his last name because he’s afraid of retaliation.
Franchow, who had diabetes, wore hearing aids and had the intellect of a 10-year-old, could read lips and leaned in close when he was speaking to someone, said neighbor Denise Wiegand.
“I can only imagine. It was dark out, he probably couldn’t tell what they (the suspects) were saying to him,” she said, shaking her head.
The level of cruelty involved in Franchow’s killing early Sunday morning was exceptional even to a department that deals with the city’s worst crimes.
“This is probably one of the cruelest murders that I’ve seen since I’ve been up there,” Lt. Lew Roberts, who oversees the department’s homicide section, said. “It’s just a blatant disregard for another human being.”
Police believe Franchow was the target of a robbery by two young men in the AnSan Sister City Park, on Ducharme Avenue near Buffalo and Alta drives. Just moments before, the men punched a woman on a swing in the mouth and took her cell phone, Roberts said.
One of them shot Franchow, but they didn’t get anything from him; he didn’t carry a wallet. Police found him at 12:25 a.m., injured in the park. He died at University Medical Center.
Wiegand met Franchow and his adoptive mother 27 years ago, when the neighborhood was still new. Franchow and his mother, who has disabilities of her own, depended on each other, Wiegand said.
She didn’t know specifically what Franchow’s disabilities were, but she knew he took medications that required him to stay out of the sun. So he exercised at night.
She disputed that his intellect was that of a 10-year-old, noting that while he did have a diminished mental capacity, he worked for a time in a casino kitchen and could follow a bus route.
He was friendly and often waved ‘hello.’
“He walked over and conversed with us all the time,” she said.
She hasn’t had a chance to speak to his mother, who uses a wheelchair, police said.
Nobody answered the door at their single-story home on Tuesday.
Richard said the park, while well-kept, has become very dangerous and he blamed it on “elements” that had moved into the neighborhood within the last several years.
Franchow was a fixture in the neighborhood and was known by many, he said.
“He was very amicable,” he said. “He could carry on a good conversation and all that.”
Richard stared ahead, squinting, trying to comprehend what had happened.
“I can’t understand anybody doing that to him,” he said.
He paused and looked up.
“Basically, it was in cold blood.”
Anyone with information on Franchow’s slaying is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 385-5555.
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0440.