By Robby Short
robby.short@ardmoreite.com
After more than eight months, the Ardmore Police Department believes they have pieced together the events that led to the deaths of Karlie Clearman and Justin Sullivan early Saturday morning, November 11, 2017, in Ardmore.
The bodies of Clearman and Sullivan were found inside a burned car near a house on Anderson Street SE. Later investigations would produce evidence that both were shot and killed prior to the car being burned.
On Thursday morning, Carter County District Attorney Craig Ladd filed two counts of first-degree murder and one count of felonious possession of a firearm against Carlton Dion Franklin, 32, of Oklahoma City.
In the court filings, Ladd alleges that Franklin fired multiple rounds from a .40 caliber firearm into the torso of Clearman, inflicting mortal wounds, and shot Sullivan in the head and neck with the same firearm, noting that both did “languish and die” from their wounds.
The court filings also allege that Franklin knowingly possessed the firearm after former conviction for the distribution of crack-cocaine. Franklin received a 9-year sentence, with time served, for the distribution charges in January 2013 in a case Ladd prosecuted.
Ardmore’s Assistant Chief Kevin Norris said Ardmore officers transported Franklin to Carter County early Thursday; Franklin had previously been in police custody in Oklahoma County.
“We believe Franklin was an acquaintance with one of the victims,” Norris said. “I cannot say that he escaped, but we do know that he was obviously not in the home (halfway house) where he was supposed to be at the time and that he was in the Ardmore area.”
Both Sullivan and Franklin were residents of a halfway house in Oklahoma City prior to the slaying.
The facility, operated by Catalyst Behavioral Services, was closed by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in December. ODOC stated in a press release that the department opted to cancel its contract with the provider due to lapses in inmate safety and security.
According to Oklahoma City media reports from KFOR in December, an ODOC investigation found that Sullivan had left Catalyst with fellow inmate Franklin on Nov. 11, 2017. Franklin would later return that day without Sullivan. He walked away again from the halfway house on Nov. 12, 2017, and was arrested four days later in Tulsa on armed robbery allegations. According to those same reports, Sullivan’s burned body was found nearly 16 hours before it was discovered he was missing from the facility.
According to Ardmore police, Franklin had been in ODOC custody since his arrest in Tulsa.
Norris said the 8-month investigation included more than a dozen search warrants and hundreds of man hours before turning the investigation over to the district attorney’s office.
“We were sad and disheartened when this homicide occurred,” Norris said. “We are glad and ecstatic that we are finally starting to put this to rest and we hope in the next, month, year, two years, however long this is, that in the end, the victims will have justice, that the families can have faith in the system that we were the voices for the victims that couldn’t speak for themselves.”
Bond for Franklin has been denied. A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 16. If convicted, Franklin faces the possibility of life in prison, life without parole, or the death penalty.