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Man convicted in traffic deaths of young couple and infant daughter sentenced to 36 years

Mark Hicks , USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee 2:26 p.m. CT May 5, 2017

Victims' family told court Ben Franklin has no remorse for 2015 fatal crash while under influence of drugs


ERIN, Tenn.— Tammy Leonard described having to identify the bodies of her young daughter, her boyfriend and their 12-day-old daughter as images “no parent should ever have to see.”


She continued reading her victim impact statement during a sentencing hearing for Benjamin Ray Franklin, of New Johnsonville, who was convicted on March 7 of three counts of vehicular homicide by driver intoxication and three counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving.

“These images will forever be burned into my memory,” she told the court. “I can undoubtedly say that the most horrific, gut-wrenching, paralyzing, never-ending pain a parent can ever experience in this life is the death of their child.”

On Oct. 12, 2015, the Dodge pickup Franklin was driving on Highway 13 in Houston County and crashed head-on into a Saturn driven by William D. Griggs, 20, of Waverly. Also, inside were Kassidy T. Leonard, 19, of Clarksville, and the couple's newbron daughter Kimberlynn Griggs.

Occupants in the Saturn were pronounced dead at the scene. Franklin was severely injured.

Franklin, 39, was later determined to have oxycontin, methamphetamine and amphetamine in his blood stream.

New Johnsonville man convicted in 2015 Houston County wreck

Assistant District Attorney Talmage Woodall, as well as Tammy and Gary Leonard, asked Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash to impose the maximum sentence on Franklin, not only because of his actions that claimed the lives of three people, but also in light of his lengthy criminal history.

The judge agreed and sentenced Franklin to a total of 36 years in prison, the maximum in the sentencing range.

Additionally, Tammy Leonard said she wanted the maximum for Franklin because of his unremorseful behavior during court appearances and the trial -- acting “as if there was something funny about what was happening and what he had done.

“Forgive me your honor, but I do not find humor in any of the crimes he has committed. Especially the ones that have killed innocent people.”

Victims' families speak out for drugged driving awareness

Gary Leonard agreed, and in his victim impact statement, called Franklin a “career offender” who never faced “real consequences” for his actions.

“I can’t help but think that if he had faced real consequences prior to the crash, that my kids would still be alive today,” he told the court. “We all have consequences … mine is that my youngest daughter, her boyfriend and my granddaughter are all dead. My sentence is a life sentence.

“I can’t visit them in jail or even get a letter of phone call from them. This case demands that consequences are delivered swiftly and severely.”

Driver in Highway 13 wreck was in previous deadly crash

Franklin’s sentencing report listed 38 other charges other than the six for which he was being sentenced, ranging from traffic offenses and simple drug possession to aggravated assault and weapons violations that dated back to age 19.

Woodall said Franklin was on probation from a Kentucky offense at the time of the crash.

He said Franklin’s mother also read a statement during the sentencing hearing.

“It was a pretty emotional hearing on all sides,” he added.

Mark Hicks can be reached at 931-212-7626 or on Twitter: @markhicksleaf.

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