Shocking find: Car of Mid-Michigan man missing for 9 years found in Clare

Eric Franks and his car vanished in 2011. One part of the mystery is now solved.
Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 6:07 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WJRT) - A shocking development in the case of a Saginaw-area man missing for nine years.

Investigators now have a major piece of evidence that could help solve the mystery of the Eric Franks' disappearance.

Not only has Franks been missing since March 2011, his car had never been found -- until now.

“We don’t have a body and we didn’t have a car. Those were the two big things we were always told, you need one or another,” said Chad Baus, who is Franks' brother-in-law.

Baus was vacationing on Mackinac Island when his mother-in-law and Eric’s mom, Jo Ann Franks, called him saying she got a tip from a person in California that Eric’s car -- the same one that has been missing since 2011 -- got an oil change in Clare on Aug. 31. The person in California had done a Carfax check on the vehicle identification number.

“That never occurred for me to do because I convinced myself a long time ago that the car had been destroyed a long time ago,” Baus said.

Previous searches by law enforcement of the vehicle identification number with car dealers, salvage yards and other automotive location services showed the car apparently vanished. Baus, a car dealer himself, and his family stopped in Clare on their way back home to Ohio and found the man who eventually bought the car.

“You still have this car, and he said yes, it’s right in the other room here. We get up, walk around the corner through a doorway and there sat his car, and it was pretty powerful, pretty powerful,” Baus said.

He said the man recently bought the car, which was part of an estate sale in Saginaw, and a new title was printed for the car on Aug. 21. The man told Baus he believed there was blood on the floor board of the car.

“He is in the business of buying less expensive cars to help people that need less expensive cars," Baus said. "He has bought cars before where he was aware that had people that had been deceased in them. He said he recognized the odor and he knew that was what was on the floor board.”

The Michigan State Police confirms the car in Clare is Franks' 2001 Chevy Malibu and its now with the Michigan State Police Crime Lab.

Police will not confirm where the car was for all these years in Saginaw, but through court records, ABC12 News can confirm it was in a garage in a west side neighborhood. The home has a connection to a woman Eric had a child with, Kendra Firmingham.

Franks was believed to be last seen at Miller Motel in Bridgeport in March of 2011. Firmingham died in Florida in 2016.

Now that the car has been found, what happened to Franks?

“I have prayed for answers for Jo Ann (Eric’s mother ) and my wife (Beth, Eric’s sister) for years, but I didn’t know if they were going to get answered," Baus said. "I was getting used to the idea that we might never know. This certainly gives us a lot of hope that we might get to know what happened for real, what happened to Eric instead of our theories on what happened to Eric.”

Anyone with information about Franks' disappearance should contact police.

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