A former Franklin County sheriff remembers every detail of March 20, 1992.
Craig Davis, a captain with the sheriff’s office at the time, said it started out as a quiet, rather boring Friday night until the call came in. That call turned out to be the murder of a rural Franklin County woman. Twenty-six years ago this past Tuesday, Doris Branson, 45 at the time, was killed in her rural Franklin County home and the case has yet to be solved. She died from loss of blood from multiple stab wounds to the face, neck, chest and abdomen, according to Herald news accounts of the crime.
“I can remember that today as clear as the night it happened,” Davis said. “I remember everything we went through, all the work that was done on it by the various agencies. I wish we could come across the right information or right tip that would help us. At the time, we thought we could get it solved. The fact it has not been solved still is unusual. We need that one piece of evidence that will open a lot of doors. We are hoping it will come in.”
Davis said the case still haunts him to this day.
“I don’t think hardly there is not a week goes by that I don’t think about that case,” Davis said. “Every once in awhile I get a call from one of my informants. They have some information on it. It will never go away until it gets solved. Any unsolved homicide is hard. You never forget about them. We can’t bring closure to the victim’s son.”
Davis did everything in his power to bring the case to a conclusion before retiring as sheriff in 2010.
“When I was first elected sheriff (in 2000), we took [it] down and looked at the case again,” Davis said. “We came up with a few new leads, but they all ran into dead ends. We had other agencies, crime squads from other counties and the KBI was involved. I took the case to the FBI’s behavioral science and worked with them to give us some leads. We exhausted about everything we could.”
Davis said one drawback was the murder happened in a rural area.
“We talked to all the neighbors and did not come up with anything,” Davis said. “We had a few leads off the neighbor. The crime scene told us a lot of things. We were never able to pinpoint a specific suspect that we could come up with enough [evidence] to make an arrest.”
Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff, said the case is still being investigated.
Doris Branson lived with her husband, Gary, in a ranch-style home in the 2400 block of Shawnee Road, northwest of Ottawa, news reports said.
News reports indicated more than 25 officers from the sheriff’s office, Ottawa Police Department and Kansas Bureau of Investigation followed up leads — said to number more than 200 — in the first few days after the crime.
Investigators determined Branson was killed during a three-hour window between the last time she was seen alive and when her body was discovered, news reports said.
Branson’s husband called 911 at 7:53 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 1992, and told authorities he found his wife in the hallway near the kitchen, just inside a doorway from an attached garage, when he arrived home from his job as a Kansas City lithographer, according to news accounts. Reports indicated a neighbor spotted the victim near her mailbox late Friday afternoon.
In the days following the murder, law enforcement officers set up “check lanes” to stop motorists in the surrounding area to ask them if they had been in the area between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the night of the murder and if they had seen anything out of the ordinary that might help officers find Branson’s killer, news reports said.
Anyone with information about this crime should call the Franklin County Crime Stoppers at 1-888-311-8477 (TIPS), submit a tip through Franklin County Crime Stoppers’ Facebook account, text a tip to 274637 (begin text with keyword “Franklin”) or online at www.tipsoft.com
Tipsters can remain anonymous. Franklin County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of any person committing a crime in Franklin County.
Davis hopes the anniversary of the murder will shake loose the right tip or information to lead to an arrest.