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Information sought in investigation of transgender woman homicide

Jenna Franks, 34, was found off a bike trail in Jacksonville last Wednesday by city employees. Those who knew her best are convinced it was a hate crime.
Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 7:54 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -Loved ones of a woman whose body was found last week are begging the public for any information that can help figure out what happened to her.

Last Wednesday, Jenna Franks, 34, was found near a creek off of a bike trail in Jacksonville last Wednesday by city employees. Jacksonville Police originally stated there was no ongoing threat to the public but said Wednesday they are pursuing the case as a homicide investigation.

“If you ask me, this was a hate crime because of Jenna’s being transgender,” said Dennia Biancuzzo, Director of the Onslow LGBTQ+ Center, who knew Franks personally. “She was a very kind person. A very loving person.”

Police have not said whether Franks’ death was motivated by her gender identity, but Biancuzzo said the information he learned about her death, but not confirmed by WITN News, has frightened the community he serves.

“There was a sense of disbelief, at first. There was anger,” said Biancuzzo. “Personally, my thought process was that this has to be something nefarious. Jenna had a lot of street smarts. And I don’t think that she would place herself in a situation that she would harm herself or that someone would harm her.”

According to Biancuzzo, Franks has had a long and troubled road, but nothing, he added, that would have led to her to this ending.

“Jenna was a person that suffered from addiction and chronic homelessness,” said Biancuzzo. “Jenna has had a long road in figuring who she is.”

Her loved ones are trying to turn her tragic death into something resembling a positive. The LGBTQ+ Center in Jacksonville is starting a housing program in Franks’ name for LGBTQ+ individuals who have been kicked out of their home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. There, they will have a place to stay for up to 18 months and get job counseling.

“We can’t look in the past and say ‘we should have done this,’” said Biancuzzo. “We have to live in the here and now, and we have to process that.”

Jacksonville Police ask anyone with information on Franks’ death to call them at 910-938-6414 or Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273.

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