Lt. Dan Franklin keeps a Nintendo DS close by so Hannah Truelove’s unsolved case is fresh on his mind.
Truelove, a 16-year-old Gainesville High School student, was found stabbed to death five years ago Thursday.
Franklin, the lead investigator in Truelove’s case with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, said he hasn’t forgotten and hasn’t given up hope.
“We’re never going to give up,” he said. “We’re going to keep working.”
Truelove’s body was found Aug. 24, 2012, in a heavily wooded area behind Lake Lanier Club Apartments off Dawsonville Highway, where she lived with her mother. She had been stabbed multiple times.
“I keep her Nintendo DS close by as a reminder,” he said. “That was how she was last communicating.”
Such reminders are not unusual for Franklin.
“With most of my cases, I try to find something that either reminds me of the case or keeps the case fresh in my mind,” said Franklin, who has worked as an investigator in 17 of his 21 years with the sheriff’s office. “And I keep it where it’s visible, some little something on my desk. I’ve kept rocks from scenes and stuff like that just so the case stays fresh on my mind and I don’t forget — which I wouldn’t, but I’m just trying to keep motivated.”
Not that Franklin needs a lot of motivation, particularly in Truelove’s case.
“I have a daughter who’s 19,” he said. “She was just a few years younger than Hannah when Hannah died, and so that motivates me. It makes me understand this is somebody’s kid.”
While there have been no arrests, Franklin remains optimistic, saying the case needs “just a couple of little pieces of the puzzle or somebody getting a conscience” to come forward. He said he believes there are people who know something about the case. Franklin continues to work with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent assigned to Truelove’s case to pursue all leads, including one that came up recently.
“We had some information come in the other day that was kind of along the lines of what we already kind of knew,” Franklin said. “Anything that comes in we chase it down, even if it’s something we’ve already heard. We’re thorough. This is somebody’s daughter, and the family doesn’t deserve to not have this closure.”
Mona Harris, Truelove’s mother, lives in a smaller apartment in Lake Lanier Club Apartments not far from the one she once shared with her daughter. She has only given away some of her daughter’s clothes to a co-worker with teenage daughters. Otherwise, she has kept “most of her belongings.” She admits that she still sometimes even talks about her daughter in the present tense.
“All I can hope for is justice for her,” Harris said. “I don’t see closure in the sense of people actually putting it behind them. I just don’t see myself ever feeling that way. I’m not as trusting as I used to be, but I’m also in the same vein — it sounds contradictory — but I also am no longer fearful of things. That’s just basically the worst thing that could ever happen to me, and it’s already happened. I just don’t fear much of anything anymore.”
Harris has sadness for what her daughter’s life could have been.
“She was taken way before her time,” Harris said. “She didn’t get to go to the prom, she didn’t get to graduate high school, she didn’t get to have a family if she had wanted to do that. Someone just ripped that away.”
She remembered her daughter for her humor, calling her “hilarious.” She also described her as “a very compassionate, gentle person” who had a “huge heart, very unique.”
Lara Mallard, who taught Truelove in world literature and composition classes at Gainesville High, said she saw Truelove’s creativity.
“What I remember about Hannah is that she was a sweet young lady in my class, but she did seem troubled and I worried about her,” Mallard wrote in an email Tuesday. “She was very creative, and that came out in my English class in her writing. It is always so difficult when a young life is tragically cut short. I feel like she had more to offer this world, and it is a tragedy that she did not get the chance to fulfill her full potential.”
Bryant Tench, another Gainesville High teacher, also remembered Truelove as a student in his English class.
“In class, she was a quiet, sweet-natured girl,” Tench wrote in an email. “She had a tight group of girls who were her friends, and it was pretty common to see them laughing together in the hallway.”
Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact Franklin at 770-531-6879.