Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
Ten Lesser-Known Serial Killers
Joseph Franklin
Joseph Franklin
Number of Victims: 15+
Method of Choice: Shooting
Area of Operation: Multi-State (TN, GA, WI, MO, VA, IN, OH, WV, PA, UT)
Date of Arrest: 09/25/1980


Joseph Paul Franklin was born James Clayton Vaughn. He changed his name to honor two men he admired: Joseph Paul Goebbels, one of Adolf Hitler's right-hand men, and Benjamin Franklin. While many serial killers are motivated by sexual perversion, Joseph Franklin, a former Klansman, was a racially motivated killer. Targeting Jews, black men and interracial couples, he embarked on a cross-country killing spree, which lasted from 1977 until 1980. During this time, he robbed banks to support his "mission." Many crimes of which he has not been convicted are attributed to Franklin, including the 1978 assassination attempt of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. In one of his first murders, Franklin, dressed as a cowboy, shot a black man and a white woman in their car. Other times, he hid out and shot joggers or passers-by with a sniper rifle. He is currently on death row in Missouri.
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