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Duluth man pleads guilty in abduction

Todd Richard Franik admitted in U.S. District Court on Friday that he abducted a 13-year-old girl as she walked her dog near her West Duluth home, that he chose the girl based on her vulnerability and small size, and that he lured her to his car ...

Todd Richard Franik admitted in U.S. District Court on Friday that he abducted a 13-year-old girl as she walked her dog near her West Duluth home, that he chose the girl based on her vulnerability and small size, and that he lured her to his car by using a false story that he needed help.

Under questioning by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, Franik admitted that he then put the girl in his trunk and drove to a remote area of Jay Cooke State Park on Aug. 2. He used duct tape to secure the girl to a tree, removed her clothes and fondled her.

Frank asked the defendant if he was making any claim that he was innocent.

"No, I said from the beginning that I was guilty," Franik said.

Franik testified Friday that after abandoning the girl at Jay Cooke, he returned to the scene only to find her gone. "I was coming back to let her go," he said.

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The court accepted Franik's guilty plea to one count of transporting a person younger than 18 across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He entered the plea in the Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building, United States Courthouse and Custom House in Duluth.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the prosecution capped the maximum prison sentence it will seek at 30 years. The defense agreed not to seek a sentence of less than 20 years in prison.

The court can sentence Franik from a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison to a maximum of life imprisonment. The maximum fine is $250,000. Sentencing is expected to be in January.

The parents of the victim were in the courtroom, but the father chose not to comment after the hearing.

In her statement to police, the victim said that a white man in a light-colored car pulled over and opened the hood and trunk as if he were having car problems. The victim was bound and gagged and she and her dog were forced into the suspect's trunk before he drove into Wisconsin and back into Minnesota before stopping in a wooded area about a mile south of the Mont Du Lac Recreation/Ski Area along Highway 23, near the Spruce Trail entrance to Jay Cooke State Park.

After beginning to sexually assault the girl, Franik stated that he said, "I can't do this," and left the scene with the girl still taped to the tree. The victim reportedly twisted and chewed through the duct tape and made her way to a business in Superior, from where authorities were called. The defendant was arrested by Duluth police without incident the next day.

According to federal court records, Franik was sentenced in 1993 to 235 months in prison after being convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. In March of this year he tested positive for methamphetamine and was cited for a violation of his federal probation.

Related Topics: CRIMEDOUGLAS COUNTY
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