Lena Triano's niece, Joan Polese (nee Triano) of Scotch Plains, and her grand niece, Christina Freitas, of Atlanta, Ga., are grateful that justice has finally been served.
Triano was murdered in her home on Ripley Place in Westfield in 1976 but it wasn't until the case was reopened that a suspect, Carlton Franklin, was arrested in April 2012.
Franklin, 52, was found guilty of her murder it was announced today by Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.
"We are very pleased to hear that Carlton Franklin has been found guilty of this horrific crime," said Freitas, who was 1-year-old at the time of her great aunt's murder. "When Aunt Lena was murdered, the loss to our family was very traumatic and the not knowing all these years left an aching hole.
"We would like to thank the Westfield Police Department, the Homicide task force, and the Prosecutor's Office for all the efforts in getting justice for Aunt Lena. Justice is bittersweet, most everyone that was so devastated when Lena was brutally taken from us, have already passed. They went to their graves with broken hearts, we only hope that somehow they know what happened today and can finally rest in peace."
Because of the nature of the crime and facts that existed at the time of the crimes, the case was presented in Union County Juvenile Court. The case was particularly challenging for prosecutors who, under state law, had to handle the case according to the laws of 1976, when Franklin was just 15 years old. At the time of the murder, Franklin's backyard abutted Triano's. In April, he was accused of stabbing, beating and raping the 57 year old, who lived alone, between March 14 and 15, 1976.
Previously, Franklin served a 20-year sentence for home-invasion robbery of a family. He was released from prison in 1999 and was arrested in April at the oil company where he drove a truck in connection with Triano's murder.
Agent Vinnie Byron and Sgt. Harvey Barnwell of the Homicide Task Force uncovered forensic evidence that was tested using modern investigative techniques, which led investigators to Franklin, who was arrested quickly after the Prosecutor's Office Forensic Laboratory identified him as a suspect, said Romankow.
Franklin is being held in custody and will be sentenced on January 31, 2013. In 1976, the Juvenile Code allows for in the case of a homicide, that sentencing should be indeterminate not to exceed life.