I-Team: Suspect in violent crimes disappears from trial

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio -- The FOX 8 I TEAM has learned a local man on trial for armed robberies in the suburbs has disappeared. Now the trial is going on without him even as investigators search for him.

Multiple sources say Franklyn Williams had been on house arrest wearing an ankle bracelet, and he showed up for the beginning of his trial. But Friday morning, police found Williams had cut off his ankle bracelet.

He faces charges in Cuyahoga County Court for three armed robberies, misusing credit cards and more in Euclid and Richmond Heights.

What's happening now with this case is just the latest strange twist. Williams had actually been sentenced for these crimes -- sent to prison for up to 14 years. But then he won an appeal. He had pleaded guilty, but he still won an appeal. An appeals court found Williams had been “misinformed” about when he might be eligible for early release from prison.

Now the new trial, and a manhunt. Judge John Russo and Cuyahoga County prosecutors are pushing forward with the case despite not having Williams in court.

Assistant Prosecutor Andy Nichol said, “But make no mistake, this case will move forward." He added, "It’s rare, but when it happens, there is this ability to move forward. in this case, the defendant decided he was not gonna hang around. So he'll face the consequences.” Nichol said the law allows cases like this to go on after a suspect appears at the start of the trial and then vanishes.

Records show, over time, Franklyn Williams has fought the charges in many ways including with handwritten court filings. But now, the strategy, not fighting back. Instead, just not showing up.

The I-Team has learned one of the victims was a 78-year-old man. Some folks watching the case are wondering how a man facing these kinds of charges had been allowed out of jail on an ankle bracelet before the escape.