“Today a dangerous killer was brought to justice,” said Deputy Chief District Attorney Bob Gill. “This heinous and unusual crime was solved through the extensive joint efforts and expertise of the Saginaw Police Department, the FBI and the Tarrant County DA’s Office initiated Major Case Investigative Team. Because of their diligence, Tyler Holder will never […]
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.
This senseless crime was truly one of Saginaw‘s darkest days!