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Billboards Seek Info on What Happened to Erica Franolich

Written By Editor on 6/8/21 | 6/8/21

Family and private investigators are hoping that this billboard on Route 7 in the Town of Schoharie will unearth new evidence in the disappearance of Erica Franolich from a Middleburgh street in 1986.--Photo by Maria Avitabile. 

Disappeared in Middleburgh in 1986

By David Avitabile
Someone knows what happened to Erica Jane Franolich and investigators searching for those responsible hope that two new billboards in Schoharie County will help in getting some information.
Ms. Franolich has been gone for nearly 35 years. Ms. Franolich was last seen in public on October 13, 1986 in Middleburgh and is survived by her husband, a son, at least one sister, and several brothers. Her siblings, a private investigator, and the New York State Police continue to hope that there will be a resolution to this "cold case."
The large billboards went up on Route 7 last week and will be up for one month, according to private investigator Greg Overacker of Mohawk, Herkimer County. The billboards are located one mile east of Wetsel Hollow Road and 500 feet north of Spring Road, both in the Town of Schoharie. The large blue and yellow signs with Ms. Franolich's picture are on the north side of the road.
"We know there are people locally from our investigation that know what happened and we hope they come forward," Mr. Overacker said last week. "We know they're out there and we want them to speak out."
The billboards are being paid for by the Private Investigations for the Missing, he added.
The billboards went up just a well before Memorial Day, one of the heaviest travel weekends of the year.
"It's in a good location," Mr. Overacker said. "It should get a lot of exposure."
Nada Thompson, Ms. Franolich's sister, said Monday that she is still seeking justice.
"I just want it stated that Erica was last seen on the Franolich farm and, her husband, Richard Franolich, is the only person of interest," she wrote.
Some of the people who knew Ms. Franolich have already died.
In 2017, Ms. Franolich's brother Dana Poprafsky said he hoped to see a resolution in the case in his lifetime. He did not. He died in January in Michigan.
One of those who have picked up the mantel in the search for Ms. Franolich and the person responsible for her disappearance is another brother, Mike Poprafsky, who still lives in Michigan.
Ms. Franolich called him the night she disappeared from a Middleburgh bar. She said she feared for her life and would call him the next day. She never called back.
"She said she was afraid for her life," Mr. Poprafsky recalled last year.
At the time of her disappearance, the relationship between Ms. Franolich and her husband, Richard, was troubled, according to the State Police. During the summer of 1986, Richard took their baby son and moved to Duanesburg leaving Ms. Franolich with her family in Michigan. She went to New York to get the baby back and wound up reconciling with Richard.
Ms. Franolich, according to police, promised to call her brother the next day to make arrangements to leave, but she never did. Shortly afterwards, Richard took the baby boy and moved to Vermont.
When she disappeared, she was "hooked on cocaine," spending about $400 a week on her habit, her brother said.
There is no doubt, he added, who is responsible for his sister's disappearance.
Despite the years and the death of some of her relatives and people who may have information about her disappearance, Mr. Poprafsky believes a resolution is near and it will be solved soon, he said last year.
Mr. Popfrasky noted that Ms. Franolich was staying with her husband's family on Westfall Road in Delanson at the time of her disappearance. Members of the family still live in the red and white, two-story farmhouse on the property, which borders Cross Road.
When his sister spoke to him that night, Ms. Franolich did not mention that she was in Middleburgh. He did not know she was in Middleburgh until the next month when he received his phone bill.
Her husband Richard was working for Mr. Poprafsky when they lived in Michigan.
Mr. Poprafsky, 71, told several stories of Mr. Franolich allegedly harming his wife, including one time when Mr. Franolich allegedly "dragged her in the street with his car when they lived here."
Mr. Overacker has been investigating the details of the disappearance for several years and was in Middleburgh a few times last year interviewing people about the night Ms. Franolich went missing.
The answer is out there, he said.
"Some of the family members could put an end to this today and it's absolutely unconscionable for them to remain silent. How they sleep at night is beyond us," he said last year.
Mr. Overacker has spoken to many people involved in the case, including Ms. Franolich's husband Richard.
There are inconsistencies in his story about what happened to Ms. Franolich after October 13, 1986, according to Mr. Overacker.
At first, Mr. Franolich said he put his wife on a bus in Schenectady two or three days before Halloween, 1986, Mr. Overacker said. He did not know where she was going but had $280 on her. Then he said he put her on the bus two or three days after October 13. Then he said he put her on a bus on October 14. Mr. Franolich said he was with his wife after October 13, 1986, according to Mr. Overacker. In the four to six weeks prior to her disappearance, the Franolichs lived in several different places including his grandparents, parents, and brother's. They also stayed at the Franolich's property on Westfall and Cross Roads in Delanson.
The interviews with Mr. Franolich have been frustrating, Mr. Overacker said.
"Richard won't answer the questions. He hides behind his lawyer."
The husband, Mr. Overacker noted, "refuses to take a polygraph test. Refuses to answer any questions to the police." As anyone who has watched court drama on television knows, polygraph tests are not admissible in court, but could say whether a person is lying or not.
As of last year, Mr. Franolich lived in Highgate Springs, Vermont, a few miles from the Canadian border. He is on Facebook and a message to him from the Mountain Eagle went unanswered last year. Mr. Franolich turned 62 on May 14. His brother Joe, whom the Franolichs lives with for a time in 1986, lives near his brother in Vermont.
The interviews will continue, Mr. Overacker added.
Anyone with information about Ms. Franolich's disappearance can contact Mr. Overacker at (315) 542-7800.

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