ORLANDO, Fla. — ▶ WATCH CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS
The man who killed an Orange County attorney in her own home and claimed he couldn’t remember doing it is headed to prison.
An Orange County jury convicted William Ramon Franklin of first-degree murder Monday for the 2020 stabbing death of 44-year-old Erin Hartigan.
The investigation began just after 4 a.m. on August 16, 2020 when Orlando police officers responded to a 911 call from a home on Jasmine Ave. in the Delaney Park neighborhood.
The caller was Hartigan’s mother, who also lived in the home, reporting that her daughter had been attacked.
Police arrived to find Hartigan, then an Assistant County Attorney for Orange County, lying face-up on the floor of a bedroom hallway with a large pool of blood around her head. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
As investigators were still processing the crime scene, police began to receive calls about potential pieces of evidence that had been strewn across several neighboring properties, including furniture cushions, articles of clothing, and two bloody knives.
At approximately 9:30 that morning, police received another call from a person at a home less than a quarter of a mile from the crime scene, reporting a suspicious man behind their home, visible on home surveillance video.
Officers went to the home where they first made contact with Franklin.
Responding officers noted Franklin was wet, not wearing pants, and appeared to have a fresh cut on the palm of his right hand.
Franklin told police he was swimming in nearby Lake Lurna. Officers later learned Franklin had been reported missing from Orlando Health- less than a half-mile from the murder scene- sometime before 2 a.m. that day.
During an interview at the police station, Franklin said he had gone to the hospital for a COVID test, but claimed he was given a drug that caused him to lose his memory.
Franklin claimed he couldn’t remember anything from when he left the hospital until police found him by the lake.
When asked if it was possible he went into a home, Franklin replied that “it was” and that he “could have even been in the house with the dead person.”
After the interview ended, police say Franklin remained in the room alone, but was being monitored by two officers who each reported hearing him mutter to himself out-loud that he “did not mean to kill that lady.”
As part of the investigation, an Orlando Police Department dive team searched Lake Lurna and found a distinct pair of pink shorts in two feet of water pushed into the embankment under some bushes.
Investigators later compared the shorts to surveillance video of Franklin from the hospital and determined they were the same shorts he was wearing then.
Additionally, with assistance from a K-9 handler, police say they followed a scent track that started at the hospital’s emergency room door and led directly to Hartigan’s front door, then to where the bloody knives were found, and finally behind the house and along the water line of Lake Lurna where Franklin was found.
Police eventually arrested Franklin on charges of first-degree murder with a weapon and burglary, but the burglary charge was later dropped.
Two doctors concluded Franklin was going through a substance-induced psychosis at the time of the murder.
Investigators also learned Franklin made statements to Orange County Fire Rescue, Orlando Health, the psychiatrist at Orange County Corrections and- several months later- to his toxicologist, that he voluntarily ingested “street Percocet.”
However, Franklin was heard during a recorded phone call he made from jail in 2021 saying he learned there was a “big difference” between voluntary and involuntary intoxication. At that point, Franklin changed his story to claim his beer was spiked at his birthday party more than 24 hours before the murder occurred.
During the trial, Franklin’s defense attorney used the new story to claim insanity by involuntary intoxication.
However, the jury also heard testimony from the person who provided the Percocet, and testified she did not “spike” Franklin’s beer at the party.
After a six-day trial, the jury found Franklin guilty of first-degree murder with a weapon.
Now 36-years old, Franklin was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
©2024 Cox Media Group