Wake County mother from prison: 'I did not conspire with my son to kill his father'

Tammy Franklin, in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and accessory charges, spoke to ABC11's Ed Crump from the Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women in western North Carolina about being accused of plotting to kill her husband.

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With just 11 months to go in her sentence, Franklin is speaking out claiming she and her son were set up by an abusive husband and father and a corrupt justice system.

In 2016, Franklin, her husband, son, and daughter were living in a posh neighborhood in northern Wake County, renting a nearly 5,000-square-foot home for $3,750 a month.

"I was making roughly around, I don't know, between 10 and 12 thousand clear a month. And he was probably making around four to five. We made good money. We really did," Franklin said.

But, she said, her family life was proof that money doesn't buy happiness.

"Actually when I went to jail when they picked me up, they were treating me for abrasions and bruises, and there are pictures and everything, where he drug me through the carpet and stomped me," Franklin said about her husband of nearly 29 years.

And it was allegations of plotting with her son to kill her husband, Donald Franklin, that sent her to jail and eventually to prison.

"I've never said my side of the story. Nobody knows my side of the story. I was shoved into a corner and I was just sitting there basically shoved on a shelf. And ... when I took the plea deal, I was lied to three different ways from Sunday," Franklin added.

Investigators said that in the spring of 2015, Franklin and her then 23-year-old son Steven started planning to kill Donald Franklin.

Donald Franklin told police on Halloween in 2015 that his son pushed him down the stairs of the garage attic with the upturned tines of a garden rake lying at the foot of the staircase.

Donald Franklin, who refused an audio or video interview, did speak to ABC11 by phone.

He said he caught himself before falling onto the rake and ran out into the yard.

He claimed his son chased after him with a kitchen knife and held it to his neck saying he was going to kill him.

During the struggle, Donald Franklin's hand was cut.

Steven went to jail on charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Less than a year later, he plead guilty and was released on probation and time served.

After that Tammy Franklin took a plea deal too but was sentenced to at least another two years and two months beyond what she had already served.

She says there was no conspiracy to commit murder and that what happened between her son and his father was not intentional.

Donald Franklin was out in the yard with his cell phone "acting foolish" after she told him she wanted a divorce.

She said she asked her son who was cooking to go out and get his father's phone away from him.

Steven Franklin quickly went out with a paring knife still in his hand, according to his mother, who says he cut his father while trying to get the phone away from him.

"Every bit of it was an accident and my ex-husband, to retaliate toward me because I wanted a divorce and I stood up to him, the only thing he could think of was that boy. He knew that would get to me and he did that 'filing charges' to our kid."

Tammy Franklin called 911 and a Wake County sheriff's deputy came to the scene. Initially Donald Franklin told him it was a family matter and he didn't want to press charges.

However, he told ABC11, the deputy told him he could press charges later if he changed his mind.

He said, his voice choked with emotion, that he soon came to believe his whole family was out to get him and he decided he couldn't lie and had to tell investigators what he knew.

Those investigators quickly built a case and charged both Tammy and Steven Franklin.

Tammy Franklin said that after nearly a year in jail, her son decided to take the plea deal to get out of jail.

She says she was told if she didn't take the deal she was offered, her son would be brought back into the case and her daughter, who hadn't been charged, could face charges too.

"As a mother, I'm not going to let that happen to my children. I mean that's why I gave up my career," she said. "That's why I gave up my life. I gave up my life, Ed. I gave up my life for my kids."

She also disputed her now ex-husband's claim that she took out a million-dollar insurance policy on him and forged his signature that was a centerpiece of the case against her and her son.

She said Donald Franklin not only signed the policy but had to give a nurse blood and urine samples.

"He knew everything about it. It was all his idea. It was not my idea," she said.

Her daughter, Savannah, backed up her mother's story saying there was no murder plot and confirming her dad was abusive.

"I've seen him beat my brother on the ground. I've seen him beat my mom. He's tried to, he's beat me before," Savannah Franklin said during a FaceTime interview.

Donald Franklin said he can't believe all this is being dredged up again and asked people to imagine what it would be like to be a hard-working father and husband and have your whole family turn against you.

He said his ex-wife is a scheming liar.

So while this appears to be a he said/she said case, Donald Franklin said he believes the important distinction here is that his ex-wife and son pled guilty.

"This whole case was just a horrible perfect storm of circumstance?" he asked.

"It's actually a Lifetime movie to be honest with you," Tammy Franklin said. It is. The way it happened and the way it fell and the way everything happened. In the end, I wasn't worried about any kind of money. All I wanted was a life. That's all I ever wanted was a life. I never wanted, I could care less, I mean there was times when we had the world but I wasn't happy. And money cannot buy you happiness. I tried it."
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