Doctor Bert Franklin wanted it all. He was a dentist who was making a name for himself at a thriving practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and his success had enabled him to buy a $1.3million home for his wife and four daughters.
But one life, or rather, one woman, wasn’t enough for Bert – he had a mistress too.
It was 2016, and Franklin had been secretly dating Roxanne Randall for a year. She was a patient who had come for an appointment at his dental practice and had fallen for his charms.
Roxanne lived in Oklahoma City with her 19-month-old son Lincoln, and thought Bert was in the middle of a divorce.
He had two separate social media accounts, so he could keep up the pretence of his double life.
Roxanne adored Bert, but her number one priority was her baby, Lincoln.
He’d proved he was a fighter after being born prematurely, and now he was a thriving little boy with an infectious smile.
But Bert didn’t share Roxanne’s love for Lincoln, because he didn’t like his biological father. In fact, Bert felt so strongly about Roxanne’s ex that he told him he wanted to ‘skin him’ and cut off his penis.
The dentist would moan to his friends that every time he looked at Lincoln, his likeness to the man he hated was an irritating reminder.
Still, Roxanne was smitten and trusted Bert with her son. On 16 July 2016, Bert was staying over and Roxanne was upstairs when she heard a loud thud.
She came downstairs to find out what had happened, and Bert said he’d thrown a ball for her dog, and that Lincoln was fast asleep on the sofa.
Later, Roxanne carried a sleepy Lincoln up to bed. But in the middle of the night she thought she heard Lincoln coughing, then quickly realised he was having trouble breathing. The little boy was limp and unresponsive.
Bert and Roxanne rushed Lincoln to hospital where they were told he had a severe skull fracture.
Roxanne was stunned to be told he had internal injuries from two large fractures.
She knew she’d never hurt her boy, and her lover denied harming him – but the loud thud she’d heard stuck in her mind, and she asked doctors to keep Bert away. Just what had he done?
Medical teams tried desperately to save Lincoln, but the little boy passed away and Roxanne was heartbroken.
An autopsy revealed Lincoln had severe swelling and trauma to his brain, and haemorrhaging in both eyes caused by two skull fractures.
A doctor called police because Roxanne couldn’t explain the injuries and they were consistent with abuse. Bert was brought in for questioning and detectives found his story didn’t add up. His double life was uncovered – and so was Bert’s true character.
The investigators came across footage from surveillance cameras inside Roxanne’s home from the day Roxanne heard the ‘loud thud’.
It showed Bert walking down a stairwell holding Lincoln, who was awake and alert. He places the baby down in the living room, out of view because of a dividing wall, then takes a slice of pizza from the kitchen and a bottle for Lincoln.
A small dog follows him. Bert then returns to the living area and it’s clear he makes a kicking motion. He bends down, appears to pick up something with both hands – then throw it to the floor.
Officers were horrified. Was that Lincoln? Minutes later, Bert is seen carrying Lincoln again, who is now limp and horizontal in his arms.
Bert walks back to the kitchen where he casually picks up another slice of pizza with the boy’s limp legs dangling.
Bert said he was kicking the dog, but it was too much of a coincidence. Sickened officers were sure he had kicked the little boy, then picked him up and violently threw him to the ground.
He was charged with murder and Roxanne was left reeling. She realised she didn’t know her lover at all.
Bert was due to go on trial in 2017, but there was another twist to events.
While in prison, he approached inmates and tried to get them to help organise a ‘hit’ on the outside.
He wanted Roxanne dead so she wouldn’t testify against him, and tricked his wife to give him just $300 to pay for it.
Bert used a mobile phone that had been smuggled in to give ‘step by step’ directions to Roxanne’s home and even offered tips on how to steer clear of her security cameras – the ones that had captured his actions on the day Lincoln was injured.
Unfortunately for Bert, and luckily for Roxanne, the inmates he’d confided in were already informants for the police and they reported him. He was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
At his 2018 trial, prosecutors called Bert a ‘baby murderer’.
They said his hatred of Lincoln’s father was likely to have been the motivation behind the vicious assault.
The dentist would get jealous when Roxanne put her son before him – and the young boy resembled his dad.
One doctor testified that Lincoln had the ‘worst fracture I’ve ever seen, period. Adult or child.’ Experts said there was no way it could have been done accidentally.
The key piece of evidence was the surveillance footage, which ironically Bert had installed to keep track of his mistress.
Prosecutors said the video showed what looked like a child’s hand or foot appearing just above the dividing wall as Bert makes a throwing motion.
‘Children need to be protected from people like Bert Franklin,’ the prosecution insisted. ‘Here’s a man who had thrown a baby to the ground.’
Life in prison
The court also heard about the dentist’s plan to have Roxanne killed before she could testify against him. Evidence included recorded conversations made on a phone that had been smuggled into the Oklahoma County jail.
Bert’s defence denied the surveillance footage was Bert interacting with Lincoln, but just him getting angry with a dog that was known for being disobedient.
‘He just threw the dog,’ they said. ‘It wasn’t Bert Franklin who inflicted these injuries… He didn’t kill Lincoln Lewis.’
In September 2018, the jury found Bert, 37, guilty of first-degree murder and recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Life was also recommended for attempting to have Roxanne killed. Relatives sobbed and hugged each other, while Bert showed no emotion.
Roxanne told the press that Franklin had been an abuser ‘hiding in plain sight’. And said, ‘I wholeheartedly believe that [Lincoln] would still be here today if the people who had knowledge of Bert Franklin’s abusive behaviours would have reported him.
‘This should serve as a reminder that abusers aren’t always easily identifiable. They often hide among us as successful people and loving fathers.’
The following month, Bert was sentenced to life in prison without parole and another life sentence to be served consecutively.
Bert’s true colours were finally exposed. Not only was he tricking the women who loved him, but his arrogance saw him kill an innocent little boy in the most unthinkable way.
Now he is no longer free to flit between his different lives. His new life has been chosen for him – and it’s forever behind bars.
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