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5. Two version of events - Each with the same tragic outcome

5. Two version of events - Each with the same tragic outcome


The State’s allegation is that Tom was exhausted and frustrated at 3:30am when Franklin woke for a third time that night. Tom bounced his son on his knee to calm him down, up and down and forward and back.
It is accepted in the medical community that with sufficient force, a forward and backward motion can cause a well-known “triad” of injuries to a young baby. Those are, 1) Subdural hematoma 2) Retinal Hemorrhages 3) Brain swelling. These injuries were undisputedly found in Franklin’s case.

Franklin also had many other injuries that are commonly found in abuse cases, such as old fractured ribs, a rectal tear, a cervical ligament injury and a missing frenulum. These injuries were attributed to abuse, although there were other non-intentional explanations for their existence. This is a painful part of the case for Franklin’s family. The investigation of this case was grossly deficient. Had there been a thorough investigation and review of Franklin’s history, police and doctors may have seen things in a much different way.

Despite the lacking history, the State’s version of events is supported medically. There is, however, a completely other version of events which is equally supported medically.


At 3:30am, when Franklin woke up for a third time, Tom took him out of the bedroom and onto the living room couch. Tom bounced Franklin on his knee the same way he always did to calm him down. After bouncing Franklin for a few minutes his son appeared to be falling asleep.

Tom positioned Franklin in a “sitting up” position in the corner of the living room couch, nestled between two large pillows. Franklin had severe reflux and had been throwing up a lot the week before, so the family had been putting him in this position all week, which seemed to make the baby comfortable. Tom left his son sitting up on the couch and went to the kitchen, which was a separate room, to prepare bottles for the baby.

While Tom was cleaning and prepping bottles, about a ten-minute process, Franklin moved himself into a different position on the couch. His face turned into one of the couch cushions, blocking his airway.

Tom noticed Franklin was no longer making any noise. He believed he was sleeping but went to check on him. Tom found his son’s face turned down in the cushion. Franklin was not breathing, and he had no pulse. Franklin suffered an accidental suffocation in the couch cushion.

The accidental suffocation caused Franklin to experience a prolonged period of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (“HIE.”) which is the lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain.

It is a medical fact that “HIE” can cause 1) Subdural hematoma 2) Retinal Hemorrhages 3) Brain swelling. Again, the same injuries Franklin had by all accounts.

The other injuries Franklin had, which were mentioned before, were caused by a car accident two months earlier and the traumatic rescue effort which will be described below.

Dr Mary Gilliland, who was a medical examiner for Northeastern North Carolina, including Currituck County, for 30 years concluded the cause of death to be the accidental suffocation event.


Tom immediately began CPR and alerted all the family members in the house for help. 911 was called and an officer quickly responded and aided with CPR. EMS workers responded a few minutes later and took over CPR responsibilities.

EMS workers did a preliminary and secondary full body scan of Franklin who was in only a diaper. They noted no visible injury of any kind on Franklin. The rescue effort to save Franklin was a lengthy and traumatic one.

When Franklin arrived at the hospital he was in critical condition. After several MRI, CT and X-Ray scans were done, Franklin was diagnosed with having 1) Subdural hematoma 2) Retinal Hemorrhages 3) Brain swelling. As previously mentioned, these are common injuries in abuse cases. The medical staff flagged Franklin’s condition as suspicious for abusive head trauma.

It was at this point the State committed to abuse as the cause of Franklin’s injuries. Tom was accused as the responsible party as he was the last one with Franklin and the baby was not injured before Tom was with him.

Sadly, in either version of events, Tom is responsible for contributing to his son’s death. If it is the States version, in a moment of exhaustion and frustration he was too rough with his boy trying to calm him down.
If it is his own version, he left his 4 month old son alone in a dangerous position for nearly ten minutes. Had he not left Franklin alone his son would likely be alive. Nothing can change that. Nothing can lift the eternal and enormous weight of guilt Tom carries into each and every day.

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