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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Murder-suicide - Recent mental patient
Number of victims: 4
Date of murder: January 18, 1983
Date of birth: June 30, 1950
Victim profile: Her husband, Darrell John Franken, 37, and their children, Troy Vance, 13, Valerie May, 11, and Dustin Jon, 7
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Aplington, Butler County, Iowa, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting herself the same day

Ethel Mae Franken, 33, shot her husband, Darrell, 37, and their three children before killing herself in Aplington, Iowa, on January 18, 1983.


Police believe mother shot her family, self

The Bryan Times

January 18, 1983

Aplington, Iowa. (UPI) - Police searching for clues today at the home of a family of five found shot to death said it looks like the mother -a recent mental patient- killed her husband and three children, then shot herself.

The bodies of Ethel Mae Franken, 33, her husband and children were discovered Tuesday on the bedrooms of their home.

"The scene would be compatible with her having shot her husband and the children", Butler County Medical Examiner Dr. Garry Teigland said. "She was closest to the gun".

"The mother was lying in bed with the gun on the bed", Teigland sais. "The father was lying within 8 to 10 feet of the bed, or less".

"All of the bodies were in bedrooms, as I recall. One of the children was in bed in one room, two others were in an adjoining room on the floor".

The five bodies were found about noon Tuesday after a friend tried to call on the family and the three children failed to show up for classes at the elementary school across the street from their home.

Local authorities were contacted and Police Chief, Tom Lines, 22, said he discovered the bodies.

"We knew they were missing", Lines said. "I can't say any more than that because (state investigators) told me not to talk about it".

Teigland said the deaths could have occurred Monday night since all of the victims were in night clothes and Franken went to work at the John Deere plant in Waterloo Monday.

Plant officials said he had taken Tuesday off.

Neighbors described the Franken family -Darrell J. Franken, 37, his wife, and their children, Troy, 13, Valerie, 11, and Dustin, 7,- as "good hard-working people with nice kids".

Taigland said each had been shot with a small-caliber handgun.

Dalene Tjabring, a close friend of the family, said she went to the home Tuesday morning to take Mrs. Franken to Waterloo, Iowa, for an appointment with a psychiatrist.

"We had been at a Christian Women's Club dinner together on Monday and that's when she asked me if I would take her to the doctor Tuesday," Ms. Tjabring said.

Acquaintances of the family said Mrs. Franken had been under psychiatric care for several weeks and had been hospitalized for several days at a time in the psychiatric ward at Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo - the same hospital in wich autopsies were scheduled for today.

"I went up to the house and no one answered", Ms. Tjabring said. "I just didn't feel right".

Gerald Shanahan, Chief of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said investigators and a lab crew were gathering clues at the family's home.

A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said residents of Aplington, a town of 900 about 30 miles from Waterloo, were "real shocked. It's hard to believe".

The shootings were the largest multiple homicide in Iowa since six members of a Delmar family were killed a murder-suicide in December 1980.



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