The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office confirmed today that a human femur found near the mouth of the Eel River in June is that of Sheila Franks, who went missing in early 2014.
The positive identification — first reported by Redheaded Blackbelt
— came earlier this month from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Forensic Services laboratory in Richmond, accord to Lt. Sam Williams.
“The Sheriff’s Office had previously secured DNA from family members and that was used in the comparisons,” Williams said in an email to the Journal
. “In September, the Sheriff’s Office received written notice from the DOJ that the bone was in fact a femur belonging to that of Shelia Franks.”
Williams said the coroner’s office was notified when the bone fragment was found by a private citizen June 10 and the area was searched for any other possible remains, but none were found.
Franks, who was 37 at the time, disappeared within a week of Danielle Bertolini
, whose skull was found in 2015 by a man who had gone fishing on the Eel River, just upstream from Howe Creek. Both women were last seen with the same man, who has previously been described by law enforcement officials as a "person of interest."
“The cause and manner of death are undetermined at this time. The case is not labeled ‘Homicide,’ however, it is suspicious and is being investigated accordingly,” Williams wrote. “As to a ‘person of interest’ versus ‘suspect,’ no changes have been made to this point. The person of interest is the same in both cases.”
Williams said the investigation is ongoing with the sheriff’s office and the Fortuna Police Department continuing “to work closely together and share information."
The Sheriff’s Office and Fortuna Police Department encourage anyone with information in either case to contact investigators at 445-7251 or 268-2539.