May 22, 2016 – John Sepulvado
In elementary school, Franklin Weekley was diagnosed as “mentally retarded.” He was slow to learn, but quick to act out on impulse. Teachers at his rural school were unequipped to get a handle on him. Weekley ended up spending much of his time at home. Unsupervised, he would often get in trouble.
Weekley fought with his siblings and raged at his neighbors. He was fascinated with fire and explosives, and was quick to run away in frustration. His parents — who were also developmentally disabled — hoped Weekley would grow out of it.
In 2001, that hope went up in smoke — literally — after Weekley set his family home on fire. The family lost everything, including their son, who was committed to a state-run mental facility as a result.
While in state care, Weekley vanished one day. The state agency in charge of his care would claim the developmentally disabled teenager — who had problems dressing himself — ran to Canada. But around 2004, an attorney heard about the disappearance. That attorney told a reporter, and soon after, the reporter filed public records request with the state agency in charge.
Those records showed that state contractors had found a body in an abandoned building on the property shortly after Weekley’s disappearance.
The records showed the body was badly decomposed, but around the skeleton’s hips was an elastic underwear band with “F.Weekley” written on the tag. A reporter’s investigation found Weekley had run away into an abandoned building and fallen down an elevator shaft, where he died.
Shortly after that story was published, the state agreed to pay Franklin Weekley’s parents $1.3 million.
Strong public records laws have the ability to right wrongs, hold state workers — including politicians — accountable, and shine a light into the darkest recesses of government — like the bottom of a derelict elevator shaft on state-owned property. Public records laws help keep things honest. [READ MORE]