Burglar connected to drug traffickers

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Dec. 18, 2006, 11:38 a.m.)

ELKHORN
A Milwaukee man who burglarized a town of Delavan lakefront home in July, fought with a carpenter working there and hid from police for nearly eight hours in a cornfield, may have gotten his instructions from a drug smuggler.

When found by police, Jonrenauras L. Franks, 26, had directions to the home on Lake Trail Drive and specific instructions to where a safe was located inside a closet, according to investigators.

Franks' attorney, Jeff Krebs, said he was given instructions to the home from Heather Lane, 27, who with her boyfriend this November pleaded guilty to federal drug smuggling charges for bringing hundreds of pounds of marijuana to Wisconsin from Mexico.

Lane, of the town of Genesee, and Franks' brother raised pit bulls, Krebs said.

Franks met Lane casually once and she told him about a safe full of cash she heard about in a town of Delavan home, Krebs said. It's unclear how Lane had heard about the safe inside the home, which contained only a few hundred dollars after police recovered it in Franks' car.

Lane told Franks he could get some of the money from the safe if he retrieved it for her, Krebs said.

District Attorney Phil Koss said at Friday's sentencing hearing that Franks told police a woman wanted the money to post bail for her boyfriend.

Koss never named Lane, or the boyfriend, but Lane was indicted by a federal grand jury with her boyfriend, Jason J. Carr, 26, for drug trafficking.

According to federal court documents, Lane would drive Carr to an Arizona border town where he would pick up drugs for another man, which were to be dealt in the state.

The suspected ringleader of the operation is former Dane County sheriff's deputy, Robert Lowery, 58, according to a Nov. 9 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Lowery is awaiting trial for several federal drug and firearms charges, the paper reported.
Carr and Lane have both pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Franks unknowingly got caught up with the wrong people at the wrong time, Krebs said. He took the opportunity to make quick money and it was wrong, Krebs said.

When Franks was burglarizing the home on July 21, he ran into a carpenter, Brian Sandy, who was taking measurements for a remodeling job.
The two fought for 15 minutes and Sandy feared for his life, he told Judge John Race.

"If I had not fought back, I would have been dead in a pool of blood," Sandy said.

Luckily, Sandy was on his cell phone when Franks attacked him from behind with a carpet knife. The phone prevented Franks from slashing Sandy's throat, he said.

"He looked at me and said, 'I am going to kill you.' I fought back with everything I had. If I hadn't I would have been dead," Sandy said.

He added later, "We are not sitting here for a murder charge because I fought back."

Sandy asked Race to impose the maximum sentence for the burglary and fleeing charges Franks pleaded guilty to as part of an agreement to avoid trial. He threatened to protest on Election Day if anything less was imposed.

Sandy was not seriously injured as a result of the fight. He was cut on the back of his neck and bruised, he said.

Franks apologized for his actions.

"I am not as bad as a lot of the people think by just looking at me," he said. "I am truly sorry for what happened to Mr. Sandy. I hope he can forgive me someday."

Storyline
Jonrenauras L. Franks was sentenced by Judge John Race Friday to 10 years in prison, three years extended supervision and three years probation. He could have received 11 1/2 years behind bars for burglary and fleeing police
.
Charges of aggravated battery, reckless endangerment, theft and bail jumping were dismissed as part of an agreement.

Franks, 26, of 2122 W. Pierce St., No. 6, Milwaukee, stole a safe and a television from a home on Lake Trail Drive in the town of Delavan on July 21. He fought with a carpenter while there and fled police after leaving the scene.

After driving over spike strips, Franks' ditched his car on Interstate 43 and hid in a 135-acre cornfield along Mound Road and the freeway.

Police and media helicopters flew low over the field, trying to find Franks. The manhunt ended when an officer stationed on the interstate saw Franks move. He was then taken down by police dogs.

Cornfield owner Jim Holt filed a $58,500 lawsuit against the county for damages to the corn.

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