The state finally had an accused quadruple-murderer before a jury. But the case was crumbling. Until Holly Wasilewski brought a key witness into the room.
The witness’s life had been threatened. He didn’t want to testify. But he also wanted to do the right thing. He knew Wasilewski; she’d helped him out before. She convinced him the state would keep him safe.
As a result, the witness took the stand. He told the jury what he saw.
Wasilewski, the top cop in the Hill, had been worried about Franklin for years. About the fear and violence he allegedly spread through the Hill, as well as the way that violence rebounded; she responded to the scene when someone shot him six times on Rosette Street.
Other cops worried about Franklin, too. They’ve charged him with four murders, three in New Haven. They didn’t want to see him walk.
On Tuesday the state prosecutor, Kevin Doyle, told a roomful of top cops and community leaders gathered at the weekly police department “CompStat” meeting about how Wasilewski saved the day. He spoke of how Franklin could end up in jail for close to 90 years just for this murder—never mind his upcoming three other trials.
“Somebody who’s very dangerous is done for this community” thanks to the trust Wasilewski had developed with the witness and his family, Doyle told the room.
“Every single family that comes in from that area says, ‘We want to talk to Holly,’” added fellow prosecutor Stacey Miranda. The room erupted in applause.
Wasilewski was asked how she did it. At first she said simply, “He wanted to do the right thing.” It turned out, though, that she had first done the right thing for the witness—a “right thing” concerning a pit bull.
The back story revealed yet another instance of how a model community cop builds trust not by tricking people in the neighborhood or trying to intimidate them, but by getting to know them and caring. It revealed how that trust can return dividends—by making New Haven a safer place.
A Facebook Appeal
Wasilewski, an omnipresence in the Hill, happened to know the witness and his family from the neighborhood.
One day this past summer, the witness’s mom found Wasilewski at the busy corner of Howard and Putnam. She told Wasilewski she needed help: Gracie, the family’s pit bull, had a bad case of mange.
Wasilewski and a fellow animal lover on the force, top Westville cop Lt. Marty Tchakirides, swung into action. Wasilewski posted a message on Facebook: “Can anyone help with a rescued pit bull puppy who has a bad case of mange?” A friend, a retired principal, responded: Her husband’s a vet. The husband got Gracie some medication. Tchakirides took Gracie to him.
Wasilewski had no idea at the time that the son had been a witness to the 2011 neighborhood homicide with which Franklin had been charged.
Fast forward to this past month. Franklin went on trial. Because Wasilewski wasn’t a witness in the case, she was permitted to watch the proceedings in the courtroom. She did.
She was distressed at what she was seeing. Prosecutor Doyle was distressed, too. No witnesses were willing to come forward willing to say they’d seen anything. The judge was signalling that the case was looking weak. Franklin was grinning.
“It was heart-wrenching to see,” Wasilewski recalled. “The case was falling apart.”
“You Have To Show Up”
The state subpoenaed the young man whose family owns Gracie the pit bull. He didn’t want to testify. He had been insisting he didn’t know anything.
When he didn’t show up for court, Wasilewski called him. “You have to show up” or you’ll get in trouble, she advised him. “What you say is on you.”
He showed up. Wasilewski met him outside the Church Street courthouse. She accompanied him up to Doyle’s office on the second floor.
Wasilewski could tell he was wrestling with wanting to tell the truth. She could also tell how scared he was. He’s a “good kid,” she said.
She assured him that the state can keep him safe through its witness protection program. “We’ll get you to a safe place,” she said. She brought in a fellow cop, Sgt. Karl Jacobson, to reinforce the message.
The witness took the stand. And he told what he saw. He identified Franklin as the shooter. (Click here to read Randall Beach’s account of that testimony in the Register.)
A woman stood up and started yelling: “He’s lying! He’s lying.” The woman was escorted into the hallway, where she got arrested after tussling with marshals.
Inside the courtroom, the murder victim’s mother, sitting with Wasilewski, mouthed a “thank you” to the witness.
And the mom leaned over to Wasilewski. “You have to protect him,” she whispered.
The family thanked the witness directly after he completed his testimony and left the courtroom. Wasilewski checked in, too, and made sure the state followed through. It brought the witness to another state.
Since then, Wasilewski has been phoning and texting the witness several times a week to speak about his efforts to enroll in school and land a job in his new hometown.
Meanwhile, as the case went to the jury, she asked Doyle to let her know when they reached a verdict.
He called her on Feb. 19. The verdict’s being announced in 10 minutes, he told her.
Wasilewski rushed to the courthouse. She saw a distraught woman leaving the courtroom crying. Assuming the woman was related to the homicide victim, Wasilewski concluded that the jury had found Franklin not guilty.
It turned out the crying woman was related to Cody Franklin. The jury had returned a guilty verdict. Wasilewski was relieved, and heartened. The system had worked.
Gracie’s photo remains on Wasilewski’s phone. Thanks to the cops’ help, the dog recovered.
Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:
• Shafiq Abdussabur
• Craig Alston & Billy White Jr.
• James Baker
• Lloyd Barrett
• Manmeet Bhagtana (Colon)
• Paul Bicki
• Paul Bicki (2)
• Sheree Biros
• Scott Branfuhr
• Dennis Burgh
• Anthony Campbell
• Rob Clark & Joe Roberts
• Sydney Collier
• Carlos Conceicao
• Carlos Conceicao and Josh Kyle
• David Coppola
• Roy Davis
• Joe Dease
• Milton DeJesus
• Brian Donnelly
• Anthony Duff
• Robert DuPont
• Jeremie Elliott and Scott Shumway
• Jose Escobar Sr.
• Bertram Etienne
• Martin Feliciano & Lou DeCrescenzo
• Paul Finch
• Jeffrey Fletcher
• Renee Forte
• Marco Francia
• William Gargone
• William Gargone & Mike Torre
• Derek Gartner
• Derek Gartner & Ryan Macuirzynski
• Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
• Dan Hartnett
• Ray Hassett
• Robert Hayden
• Robin Higgins
• Ronnell Higgins
• William Hurley & Eddie Morrone
• Racheal Inconiglios
• Juan Ingles
• Paul Kenney
• Hilda Kilpatrick
• Herb Johnson
• John Kaczor & Alex Morgillo
• Jillian Knox
• Peter Krause
• Peter Krause (2)
• Amanda Leyda
• Rob Levy
• Anthony Maio
• Dana Martin
• Steve McMorris
• Juan Monzon
• Chris Perrone
• Ron Perry
• Joe Pettola
• Diego Quintero and Elvin Rivera
• Stephanie Redding
• Tony Reyes
• David Rivera
• Luis & David Rivera
• Luis Rivera (2)
• Salvador Rodriguez
• Salvador Rodriguez (2)
• Brett Runlett
• David Runlett
• Allen Smith
• Marcus Tavares
• Martin Tchakirides
• Stephan Torquati
• Gene Trotman Jr.
• Kelly Turner
• Lars Vallin (& Xander)
• John Velleca
• Manuella Vensel
• Holly Wasilewski
• Alan Wenk
• Stephanija VanWilgen
• Matt Williams
• Michael Wuchek
• Michael Wuchek (2)
• David Zannelli
• David Zaweski