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Couple in court on murder allegation in Vancouver starvation case

Bail set at $1 million each for Felicia L. Adams, 52, and Jesse C. Franks, 56, in connection with death of 15-year-old nephew

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
2 Photos
Felicia Adams-Franks, 52, is facing domestic violence charges of second-degree murder and homicide by abuse in Karreon Franks’ death. (Jessica Prokop/The Columbian)
Felicia Adams-Franks, 52, is facing domestic violence charges of second-degree murder and homicide by abuse in Karreon Franks’ death. (Jessica Prokop/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A Clark County judge set bail at $1 million each for the adoptive parents of a 15-year-old Vancouver boy who died from starvation and neglect in November.

Both Felicia L. Adams, 52, and Jesse C. Franks, 56, appeared Monday morning in Superior Court on domestic violence charges of second-degree murder and homicide by abuse in Karreon Franks’ death.

In response to the charges being read, Franks said, “I don’t know why I’m being charged with all of this.”

Senior Deputy Prosecutor James Smith described the allegations as “extremely concerning” and said the evidence in the case is overwhelming. He noted that Karreon’s condition at the time of autopsy was shocking.

Adams and Franks are each facing a minimum 20-year prison sentence if convicted, Smith said.

The couple were extradited from San Joaquin County, Calif., where they had been in custody since June 4 on fugitive from justice warrants issued by Clark County. The arrest warrants were issued May 28, but their whereabouts were unknown at the time.

On Monday, Vancouver attorney Jeff Sowder, who’s representing Adams, said she and her husband surrendered to police in Stockton, Calif.

Adams had been in contact with an attorney regarding juvenile dependency proceedings, Sowder told the court. He was then contacted regarding the criminal case through Clark County Indigent Defense earlier this month, he said.

Sowder said the couple left their Vancouver residence after a reporter showed up at their door and neighbors learned of the criminal case, leading to their home being vandalized.

He asked to be formally appointed to Adams’ case and said he would wait to argue bail until they are in front of the presiding judge.

Judge John Fairgrieve granted Sowder’s request and also appointed Vancouver attorney David Kurtz, who was not present, to represent Franks.

The couple are scheduled to be arraigned July 2.

Weighed 61 pounds

Adams, also known as Felicia Adams-Franks, legally adopted Karreon and his two younger brothers in June 2012 in California; she is their maternal aunt, court records show.

Karreon reportedly had a rare genetic disorder that affected his development and severe autism, to the point he was nearly nonverbal. He was also legally blind and used a cane to get around, according to court records.

The Vancouver Police Department had been investigating the circumstances of Karreon’s death since early December.

On Nov. 27, the couple took Karreon to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead 14 minutes later. Bilateral pneumonia was initially listed as his cause of death, according to a search warrant affidavit.

However, when the boy’s body was transferred to a Vancouver funeral home, staff reported “concerns with Karreon’s appearance,” the search warrant affidavit says.

The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy, which found Karreon weighed 61 pounds and showed abnormal bone and hair growth, as well as lesions, likely caused by starvation. When he was last seen by his physician in 2019, he weighed 115 pounds, according to court records.

Adams told the medical examiner’s office Karreon was getting a bath when he became unresponsive, the probable cause affidavit states.

A PeaceHealth Southwest emergency room nurse had contacted Child Protective Services when Karreon was brought in. CPS workers and law enforcement responded to the family’s residence the next day and took Karreon’s brothers into protective custody, according to the affidavit.

That was the second time CPS responded to the residence in about a week. Adams’ sister, Letricia Brown, contacted the agency Nov. 20 to report that Adams routinely withheld food from the boys as punishment, according to court records.

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