Missouri state prison inmate charged in 2001 death of woman whose body has never been found

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NEOSHO, Missouri — A state prison inmate has been charged with murder in the 2001 disappearance of a southwest Missouri woman because of a detective's new investigation.

Newton County prosecutor Jake Skouby charged Mark T. Walsh with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and statutory sodomy in the death of Freida Franks, 57, a Newton County woman whose body was never found after she disappeared in August 2001.

The charges were filed in late September after Newton County detective Mike Barnett reviewed the case, The Neosho Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1tkaaa8 ). Barnett began investigating the case after he saw a missing persons report filed by Franks' daughter in 2002.

He eventually interviewed a woman who said she was with Franks and Walsh at a campground near Joplin in 2001 when she was 11 years old. The woman said Franks tried to stop Walsh from sexually abusing her, and then Walsh stabbed Franks. The young woman told Barnett she never saw Franks again.

Barnett said Walsh is currently serving life in prison on two counts of statutory sodomy after being convicted in 2002 of sexually abusing the girl in Stone County.

"At the time when (Walsh) was interviewed, it was thought that he had possibly killed Freida Franks but we thought maybe it occurred in Arkansas somewhere and it more or less went cold," Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said.

After he interviewed the abuse victim again, Barnett went to the state penitentiary to interview Walsh, who denied everything, Copeland said.

Walsh said in a 2002 interview at the Stone County Sheriff's Office that Franks was injured when she fell on a knife while the two were fighting and died from her injuries, according to the probable cause statement.

Barnett also interviewed a Stone County inmate who told investigators in 2002 that Walsh said he killed a woman named Freida by cutting her throat and disposed of her body in Arkansas. "Walsh said that she was going to testify against him for molesting a little girl," according to the probable cause statement. "He stated that Walsh told him disposed of Freida in Bull Shoals Lake" in Arkansas.

Online court records don't indicate if Walsh has an attorney for the latest charges.

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