ORLANDO, Fla. — The man accused of killing an Orange County attorney inside her Orlando home was reported missing from a nearby hospital hours before his arrest, Orlando police said.
Police said William Franklin, 33, was reported missing from Orlando Regional Medical Center hours before they believe he broke into a home on Jasmine Avenue less than half a mile away and killed Erin Hartigan, 44.
According to an arrest affidavit, Hartigan’s mother called police around 4:30 a.m. Sunday after she told police she heard her daughter scream and found her lying on the hallway floor with an unknown person standing over her. The woman said when the person saw her, they turned around and left the home.
Police said when they arrived, Hartigan was already dead, having suffered several stab wounds.
On Monday, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings spoke publicly to remember Hartigan, who worked as an assistant county attorney.
“She’s going to be missed among our ranks,” he said. “...We pray that justice is served.”
Investigators said they are not sure how Franklin entered the home, but that there was no sign of forced entry. They said he may have tried to enter one other neighbor’s home before getting into Hartigan’s house.
“As it stands right now it does appear to be random,” investigators said during a news conference Monday.
A neighbor told police they found two bloody knives in the grass near their driveway. According to the affidavit, other neighbors also said they found various couch and furniture cushions scattered on their properties.
Investigators said that the knives matched one that was found next to Hartigan’s body, which also matched a set found in her kitchen.
Officers said they found Franklin hiding in a nearby backyard hours later after neighbors said they spotted an unknown man on their surveillance camera. They said Franklin had fresh cuts on the palm of his hand.
“He would not be custody right now if not for the neighbors that were really cognizant of what was going on their surroundings,” investigators said during the news conference.
Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon issued a statement on Twitter echoing how critical the community’s involvement was in getting the suspect into custody.
According to the affidavit, Franklin told officers he had been given a drug that caused him to lose his memory and that he didn’t remember anything from the time he left ORMC to when he was found by police.
According to a missing persons report filed by Franklin’s wife after she found out he had left ORMC, Franklin was in the hospital “due to narcotics that were given to him for his birthday on August 13th” but stated “he does not have an issue with drugs.”
His wife said Franklin has not been diagnosed with any physical or mental disabilities, but “should be diagnosed with something but has not been.”
According to the report, a nurse said Franklin was “obviously experiencing effects related to the drugs at the time of his treatment.”
Court records show Franklin has a lengthy criminal history that includes arrests of aggravated battery.
Officers said they used a K-9 to track Franklin’s scent starting at ORMC. Officers said the K-9 followed his scent from the hospital to Hartigan’s home to the yard where the bloody knives were found, and finally behind the home on the banks of Lake Lurna where he was found.
In the lake, officer said they found Franklin’s shorts, which were ripped near the front pocket.
Franklin is charged with burglary to an occupied dwelling with a weapon/battery and first-degree murder. He was scheduled to have his first appearance before a judge Monday morning.
Watch the news conference in full below:
Cox Media Group