This Day in History – September 28, 1981

Racist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two black joggers


On this day in 1981, Joseph Paul Franklin, a racist serial killer, was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing two black joggers in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Joggers Killed: Ted Fields and David Martin

Altogether, Franklin received six life sentences as well as the death penalty.

His crimes were racially motivated and he was labeled a paranoid schizophrenic. He repeatedly changed his accounts of several of his crimes and therefore was not charged in some of the cases that he was suspected of committing.

Franklin was on death row for 15 years and was executed by lethal injection on November 20, 2013.

Born in Mobile, Alabama in April of 1950, Franklin suffered severe abuse as a child. In high school, he became interested in evangelical Christianity before dedicating himself to Nazism. He also held memberships in the Ku Klux Klan as well as the National Socialist White People’s Part.

Franklin intended on “cleansing the world” of those he considered inferior, particularly blacks and Jews.

In 1977, he killed a young interracial couple. Less than a year later, he shot and killed Bryant Tatum, a black man, as well as his girlfriend. The following year, he shot Taco Bell manager Harold McIver, also a black man.


Franklin’s crimes reached their peak in 1980 when he went on a killing spree, resulting in the deaths of nearly ten more victims, including Ted Fields and David Martin, two black runners who Franklin shot in Utah.

In October of 1980, he was arrested in Lakeland, Florida. He was held on death row at the Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri. Before the execution, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement that that the high court “has taken an important step to see that justice is finally done for the victims and their families.”


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