December 31, 2013

Police: Dalton man in jail after kidnapping infant son

By Christopher Smith

— A Dalton man who allegedly kidnapped his six-month-old son from East Ridge, Tenn., early Monday morning remained in the Whitfield County jail on Tuesday and is expected to be extradited to East Ridge, officials said.

The infant was returned safely to his mother after being brought to Dalton Monday morning by his father, officials said.

Deputies with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office and the East Ridge Police Department arrested Joseph Franklin Jr., 46, of 309 Patricia Lane in Dalton, on Monday when he was discovered visiting relatives with the infant, Jeffery Cocke, at a residence at 162 Forest Way in Dalton. Franklin faces charges in East Ridge of kidnapping and custodial interference and in Whitfield County for multiple offenses.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber alert for the infant at 12:36 a.m. on Monday after his mother, Susan Cocke, reported him missing from her East Ridge home at 1122 Edwin Lane.

Cocke had left the child, who was sick, with Franklin’s sister Pam Manis while she went to get medicine, according to an East Ridge police news release. Franklin arrived while the mother was away, officials said, adding that Manis wasn’t aware that Franklin did not have legal custody or that Franklin planned to leave with the child.

Manis is not being investigated “as an accomplice to kidnapping,” said Cpl. Robert Wade of the East Ridge Police Department.

Whitfield sheriff’s office deputies assisted East Ridge police when they spotted a red 2011 Toyota Corolla that had been reported stolen outside the house in Dalton belonging to Franklin’s relatives. Franklin left the baby with the relatives and drove off in the Corolla, police said.

“At about 11:16 a.m., police performed a traffic stop on Franklin just after he left that location (the relatives’ residence),” Wade said. “East Ridge police detectives and Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office personnel subsequently located Jeffery Cocke, unharmed and in good health, inside the residence.”

Franklin had taken his son without permission before, Wade said, and had made several violent threats toward Susan Cocke in the past.

“The child was born to an unmarried mother and the mother was granted full custody upon the birth,” Wade added. “In the absence of a granted petition for custodial rights, Franklin never received any custody rights to begin with.”

An incident report provided by the Whitfield sheriff’s office states Franklin faces charges in Whitfield of theft by bringing stolen property into the state, two counts of failure to appear, probation violation, being a fugitive from justice, fleeing or attempting to elude police, reckless driving, failure to stop at a stop sign, failure to maintain lane, improper passing on the left, driving too fast for conditions, driving while license is suspended or revoked and having a child under 4 in a car without proper use of safety belts.

Maj. John Gibson with the sheriff’s office said all questions from the media had to go through East Ridge police since that department is in charge of the investigation.