(Updated September 28, 2007)—Police have today confirmed that a body found Thursday in a Chicago suburb is that of Nailah Franklin, the 28-year-old pharmaceutical representative who had been missing for more than a week. Authorities used dental records to identify the unclothed, badly decomposed body, discovered at about 4:46 A.M. behind an abandoned building in Calumet City, Illinois.
At this time the cause of death is “inconclusive,” according to Chicago police, who are now conducting a “death investigation” in conjunction with the Calumet City police department and the FBI.
On September 19 Franklin failed to report to work for a crucial meeting with her boss, and coworkers immediately contacted the family expressing grave concern regarding her whereabouts. According to Franklin’s relatives, she loved her job and would never fail to show up without contacting someone. Law enforcement officials investigating the disappearance said that the last time anyone heard from Franklin was last Tuesday night, when she reportedly sent a text message stating that she was at dinner. She then failed to answer her cell phone.
A few days prior to her disappearance, she reported to police that she had received threatening voice mail messages. Franklin’s close friend Dana McClellan told CBS 2 Chicago that she had heard the alarming messages, which had warned: “I could do harm to you. You haven’t seen that side of me, but I do have a bad side…”
Police have been working closely with family and friends to find the young woman. On Friday, Franklin’s corporate car—a leased gray four-door 2005 Chevy Impala—was found in Hammond, Indiana, prompting police to search a lagoon area on the nearby River Oaks Golf Course.
Upon learning of her sister’s disappearance, Lehia Franklin Acox, rushed to Franklin’s trendy University Village neighborhood condo—one of two she owns—where she discovered that her sister’s personal and work laptops were missing. When Acox called Franklin’s cell phone, her call went to voice mail. Acox told CBS 2 Chicago: “The fact that she missed the meeting, the car’s not there, the phone goes directly to voice mail, the voice mail box is full—these are all signs that point to something bad happening to Nailah.” Franklin’s other sister Ashlee Allen told ABC7 Chicago, while handing out flyers on Chicago’s South Side,” “I won’t stop until we run out of papers. I know she would do the same for me.”
Former high school classmate Kehinde Akiwowo competed with Franklin on the track team at Homewood Flossmoor High School in Illinois. She remembers her as a popular, outgoing and pleasant young woman. “She was free-spirited and was always smiling, very sweet and easy to get along with. In fact, her best friends were considered the It girls.” Akiwowo added: “I just want to pray for her safe return soon and that her family and friends make it through this as best they can.”
Investigators have gathered evidence from Franklin’s apartment and are analyzing phone text messages to determine whom she might have been communicating and spending time with leading up to the moments before she was reported missing.
“My sister is just someone who had everything to live for,” Acox told CBS 2 Chicago news. “She was at the top of her game professionally. She has bought two condos on her own as a single woman, and she dotes on her niece, my daughter. She’s just a person who is very connected with the people she cares about. This is so out of character.”