Pit-Bull Favor Repaid; Killer Convicted

Paul Bass PhotoThe 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.

And the jury found Zachery Cody Franklin guilty of a 2011 homicide.

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

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Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: HhE on March 6, 2013  1:27pm

Beats cancer and crime.  She rocks.

posted by: Fair and Honest on March 6, 2013  2:56pm

Good job Wasilevski!

and Thank you Paul Bass for telling the story! She deserves the gratitude of the whole city.

posted by: A Mother on March 10, 2013  12:45am

This was a Great story. As a mother who lost a child to Gun Violence myself. I want to also say Thank You. To the Witness in this story that Stood Up and did the Right Thing.I know it had to be hard and scary thing to have to do. But know that your Heart will be at peace now. And your Mind Free of any guilt you may have felt by not standing up. Again Thank you for having Courage. Also Thank you Holly & Karl for seeing this Young Man safe from harm. You both are Great People and Officers. God Bless All. T. Suggs

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on March 10, 2013  11:08am

The difference is Holly means what she says. And then she does whatever she can to get done whatever it is to get it done.

Whether it’s to save a puppy, or put away a homicidal predator.

It’s hard for many to believe that a woman has more “balls” than a lot of men in uniform, who chronically use selfish excuses to not do the right thing.

I guess Holly knows the two great lessons, old time cops were taught. It takes far less effort to do things the right way, versus taking the time to create excuses to not do what should be done, and bull later on to cover up a failure to do the job.

And when at a loss for a clear rule, method, or policy, just “Do the best you can.” Sounds pretty simple, but this is how many methods used in modern policing were actually invented.

Oh, and one more, go out every day with the best intentions, not with malice.

That way when things go wrong, which is typical when one works the street as a police officer, a cop can retain their self respect, when the critics “Monday Morning Quaterback” events from the safety of their cubicles buried within their offices, inside the safety of their secure buildings.

Street Cops are the strength, and the force, that makes police organizations succeed. Not managers who never were cops. That again is why Lt. Wasilewski is a great cop, and public servant.

Thanks Holly, Great, great, job.