I am passionate about missing persons cases due to a personal family experience of having someone go missing in my family.
Anthony Bernard Franko was born on August 15th, 1972. He was 10 years old when he disappeared on May 8th, 1983. He was 4’11" and weighed 85 pounds. Anthony is a Caucasian male with brown hair and eyes, and he has a slight gap between his upper front teeth. He has small birthmarks above his left eyebrow and on the right side of his neck. He has two light-colored moles on his cheek and nose and a scar under his lower lip. He also goes by the nickname Tony.
Anthony was last seen leaving for school wearing a red San Francisco 49ers t-shirt, blue jeans, a blue down hooded jacket, and hiking boots.
Anthony was a fifth grader at Lemmon Valley Elementary School, where he was in the 4-H Club. He lived with his mother and stepfather just half a mile from the school. He had just won a blue ribbon for showing his pet pony and two rabbits at a 4-H show the day before he went missing. He was so excited that he even took his pet rabbit with him the next day to show his classmates.
About a month before his disappearance, Anthony’s mother had punished him for having poor grades, and he had decided to run away to the mountains. He had taken some food and plates with him and even left a goodbye note for his mother. He came back home within a few hours crying and promising he’d never run away again.
On May 8th, 1983, Anthony started to walk to school like any other day. He lived about half a mile from the school and normally walked north to get there. Today, however, it was noted he had started walking the opposite way. A witness put him in a cul-de-sac on the south end of Fremont Street. He was talking to an unknown person sitting in a rusted-out vehicle, possibly a Ford Pinto or Camaro. There was a 7/11 store just a short distance away from the cul-de-sac that Anthony was spotted at. It wasn't uncommon for children, including Anthony, to stop at the 7/11 store before going to school. Anthony never made it to school and was never seen again.
Lemmon Valley Elementary never called to notify his mother about him missing school, so nobody knew he was missing until later that evening after his mother got home. Normally, Anthony would call his mother every single day after school to let her know he had made it home safely, but she never got a call that day and decided to come home. When she got home and noticed her child wasn't there, she notified the police right away.
Because of Anthony running away a month prior, the police department didn't begin to look or investigate his disappearance until a week later when Anthony still hadn't come home. His mother told officers he was naive for his age and would talk to a stranger without thinking twice about it.
Authorities believe this was an abduction but gave both his mother and stepfather polygraph tests to rule them out as suspects. No strong suspects have been named or identified, but police believe Anthony has probably been murdered.
Anthony’s mother Liza still holds onto hope that her son will be found. Liza has contemplated suicide but thinks to herself about what Anthony would do if he came home and she was not there. Anthony’s mother and stepfather continue to celebrate his birthday every year to keep his memory alive. She still posts pictures of Anthony online on his birthday and during holidays, even after more than 30 years have gone by since he was last seen. She still has hope they will get answers to what happened to her son all those years ago.
Authorities are giving the case a fresh look. Bjelke and Jenkins, both retired Reno Police detectives, are going back through evidence to see if they can see something they might have missed. They are re-interviewing people who were younger at the time and might be able to remember something or might have information that could help solve the case. They are still getting calls to this day about possible leads but nothing has panned out yet.
If you have read my missing persons article on Jennifer Martin, you’ll be familiar with Stephen Kiesle, who was a suspect in the Martin case. Kiesle, a defrocked priest, had been convicted of molesting three young girls in 1978 and worked in Fremont at the Santa Paula Catholic Church from 1968–1971.
He became a suspect in Anthony Franko’s case in mid-2002 for a brief amount of time. The authorities extensively searched Kiesle’s vacation home in Truckee, NV, but found nothing that could link him to the Franko case or other missing children’s cases. Anthony is believed to have been abducted by a non-family member, but his case is still unsolved.
Aside from Stephen Kiesle, there are no theories as to what might have happened to Anthony Franko.
Contact Information and Links
If you have any information on this case, please contact the numbers below. You can also look up information and pictures by clicking on the link below.
Washoe County Sheriff's Office
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.