Tanner Franks, plea change

Tanner Franks, 37, walks into District Court Judge Holly Brown’s courtroom carrying a handwritten statement on Tuesday at the Law and Justice Center. Franks entered a plea of guilty to the charge of felony mitigated deliberate homicide.

A Bozeman man pleaded guilty Tuesday to stabbing to death his 72-year-old father in November 2017, maintaining that the incident was the result of years of abuse.

Tanner Franks, 37, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of mitigated deliberate homicide in the death of William “Bill” Franks. He appeared in Gallatin County District Court before Judge Holly Brown.

Tanner teared up as he described how his father was “controlling, manipulative and, at times, very physically abusive” to him and his family. Tanner told the judge that on the day of the incident an argument between him and William turned into a fight.

“After years of emotional, physical and psychological abuse, I lost control of myself, my senses, and I stabbed him to death with a knife,” Tanner said.

Tanner was initially charged with felony deliberate homicide, which carries up to 110 years in prison. The charge he pleaded guilty to has a maximum of 50 years in prison.

Prosecutors will recommend that Tanner be committed to the Montana Department of Corrections for 50 years at his sentencing on Dec. 16. Prosecutors will also recommend that Brown doesn’t place any restrictions on Tanner’s eligibility for parole.

The agreement stipulates that Tanner could withdraw his guilty plea if Judge Brown rejects the prosecutor’s recommendations. If that happens, the charges would be amended back to felony deliberate homicide and the case would continue.

At the hearing, Brown said she typically doesn’t accept binding plea agreements. She said her decision for a sentence would be based on a pre-sentence investigation and everything else in the case’s file.

“I’m concerned about that at the outset … ,” Brown said. “But, in general, I’m not going to accept a binding plea agreement.”

In November 2017, William’s wife, Jamie Franks, told Bozeman police that Tanner was in the kitchen when he got upset and stabbed William in the chest before leaving, according to charging documents. Tanner reportedly went to an ex-girlfriend’s house in Big Sky, but left when he heard she was on the phone with police.

Tanner was later arrested on U.S. Highway 191 about a half-mile south of the intersection with Lone Mountain Trail. He’s been held at the Gallatin County jail since then on $1 million bail.

William worked at Bozeman High School for more than three decades. He spent the first 16 years as an English and psychology teacher and 16 years as an administrator before retiring in 2007 as associate principal.

He also served in the Army during the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1972.

Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2630. Follow him on Twitter @TGIFreddy.

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