One of Saginaws Darkest Days…the Abduction of Opal Jo Jennings



Friday evening March 26, 1999, around 5:30pm, 4 foot tall, 6 year old Opal Jo ‘Dace Jennings was abducted while playing with her cousin and a friend in front of her grandmother Audrey Sanderford’s home in the 200 block of N. Hampshire St. in Saginaw.  Witnesses told investigators a white male 40 to 45 years old got out of his car, grabbed the brown-haired girl, punched her in the chest and threw her into his car as she screamed.  An Amber Alert was issued and a state wide search was soon underway, as law enforcement agency’s joined forces with the Saginaw Police, including the FBI.


In  August of 1999, convicted child molester Richard Lee “Ricky” Franks was charged with aggravated kidnapping and indecency with a child after admitting to authorities that he abducted six-year-old Opal Jennings.  He admitted to having picked up Opal, stating “I gave her a ride to a convenience store”,  and that the six-year-old went with him willingly.  As part of his defense, Franks also told police that Opal attempted to initiate sexual contact with him.  Franks first trial ended in a mistrial.  Franks was subsequently convicted of Opal’s abduction in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison, and will be eligible for parole in 30 years.  He also had a prior conviction from 1991 of indecency with a child in Wise County.

In late December of 2003, the skeletal remains of a small girl were found by two people on horseback in a remote brushy field in Northwest Fort Worth, about 10 miles from Saginaw.  The pink barbie tennis shoes found with the remains matched the shoes Opal Jo was wearing when she was abducted.  A few days later the Tarrant County medical examiners office announced that DNA extracted from a tooth confirmed the remains were Opal Jo Jennings.  The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Today  the city has a memorial park in Opal’s name, a small neighborhood park comfortably nestled in the Rancho North Addition on the corner of Opal Street and Mustang Drive.  In May 2004, the City of Saginaw officially rededicated/renamed this park from Opal Street Park to Opal Jo Jennings Memorial Park.

Opal’s  remains are buried in the Saginaw Cemetery on W. McLeroy Blvd. in a plot graciously donated by Mary Stevenson.

This senseless crime was truly one of Saginaw‘s darkest days!


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  1. Debbie Stewart says:

    I remember to this day being in my yard just around the corner from the last place this little girl was ever to be seen. Hearing the sirens and seeing the police activity, it wasn’t until later that I heard what had happened. Such a tragedy and who would have EVER thought something like this could have happened in our quiet little neighborhood. I remember attending the candlelight services next to her Grandmothers home and seeing all of the supportive people of Saginaw who attended. The whole block was filled with caring people. I would see the pink ribbons that hung outside on the trees, eventually fading from the sunlight, wondering each day as I walked past their home if they would EVER find Opal the sweet little Angel of God. The day did come, it allowed some closure for the family and for the community. Rest in Peace, Opal Jo. We will never forgot you.
    Debbie Stewart

  2. Anthony says:

    R.I.P Opal. Your with the angels now xx

    Hope the monster that committed this atrocity burns in hell, right after he endures life without parole in what is hopefully the worst jail in America.

  3. Linda Meyers says:

    Truly this is unthinkable but unfortunately this unthinkable monstous act occures all too often. Just the thought that this sick individual will be elligible for parole in 30 years is insulting not only to the family but to the rest of us who have children.When are we really going to do something? My heart goes out to the grandmother, the whole family, and the community.We who believe will see her again,this is the only comfort.

  4. kyler keith says:

    opal jo jennings was a very pretty girl she did not deserve to die or to be kidnapped r.i.p joe jennings i love yooh the sad part about it was my family was outside when it happened and they live right around the corner from me its terrible:( i hope yooh live a wonderful life in heaven opal your a beautuful angel saginaw misses yooh:)!!!

  5. Teresa Sousa says:

    I remember this in the news. Although I never knew little Opal, I’ll never forget her. Her story touched me so profoundly that she will live in my heart forever. I was in NY by the time her remains were found. My heart felt like it stopped when I saw it on online news. God bless her family & all the others that have gone through the same thing. I’m a Christian but I hope there’s a very dark most miserable suffering place in hell for the monsters who hurt/kill these innocent children & torture their parents with the unknown.