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September 19, 2014

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Husband of slain Las Vegas teacher arrested in her death

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Mark Douglas Franta was arrested Wednesday in the connection with the death of Marybeth Franta.

Updated Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010 | 9:15 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Marybeth Franta was a horse enthusiast and member of the the Nevada Horsemen's Association.

Location where body was found

Metro Police on Wednesday arrested the husband of a Las Vegas teacher whose body was found behind a grocery store this past weekend in the northwest valley.

Mark Douglas Franta was taken into custody at 4:55 p.m. and charged with murder in connection with the death of 49-year-old Marybeth Franta. Police said Mark Franta had reported his wife missing.

Franta was booked into Clark County Detention Center and is being held without bail.

The Clark County Coroner's Office on Wednesday said Marybeth Franta died of asphyxiation and ruled her death a homicide. Her body was found behind the Albertsons store at Tenaya Way and Craig Road.

Metro Police began asking for the public's help Tuesday in finding Marybeth Franta, who taught at Irwin and Susan Molasky Junior High School. Police said she left her home about 7 p.m. Saturday in the 4300 block of Cranbrook Circle, near Torrey Pines Drive and Harmon Avenue, and didn't return.

Police had said she was driving a gray 2002 Mazda Tribute sport utility vehicle, which police later recovered near a desert area along Craig Road west of U.S. 95.

Family and friends spent Wednesday trying to cope with her loss.

More than a year ago, a horse-riding accident left Marybeth Franta with a broken shoulder and several broken ribs. Despite the setback, she kept her characteristic positive outlook and returned to competition in February with her horse, Gabriel.

"It was a real thrill for her," said friend Charlene Peterson, who volunteered alongside Franta with the Nevada State Horsemen's Association. "Everyone was real encouraging."

Peterson said Franta had three loves: her two grown children, her junior high science students and horses.

And family members say Franta was on her way to take care of one of those loves — her horses — when she disappeared Saturday night.

"She was going to feed her horses like always," her cousin, Ronald McLaughlin, said a relative told him.

But it's unclear whether she ever made it there.

McLaughlin, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, said Franta's large extended family is in shock — and hopes police quickly find the person or persons responsible for her death.

Franta, one of six children, moved around quite a bit as a child as the family followed her father's career in higher education, including his stint as an administrator at UNLV, McLaughlin said. Her father, Dale Nitzschke, left UNLV as provost in 1983 to assume the presidency of Marshall University in West Virginia.

To McLaughlin's knowledge, Franta has lived in Las Vegas since at least the mid-1980s.

Click to enlarge photo

Marybeth Franta is shown in this undated photo.

School officials said the district's Crisis Response Team was available for students and staff at Irwin and Susan Molasky Junior High School on Wednesday. Franta had worked for the Clark County School District since August 1993.

"She looked at it more of an interaction with individuals," McLaughlin said. "That's what she liked to do: interact with the children in the classroom."

In a letter sent home to parents, Principal Daron Heilman called Franta an "integral part of our staff in enhancing a positive community."

"She will always be remembered as part of our school family and we will miss her greatly," he wrote.

Her compassion in the classroom carried over into family life, too, McLaughlin said. He described Franta as the little girl "full of smiles" at family reunions in northwest Iowa, and she continued attending reunions as an adult.

"As she got older, she didn't make anyone feel out of place or better than anyone," he said.

Peterson said Franta exhibited the same traits — "positive, sweet, caring" — as secretary and show announcer, both volunteer roles, for the equestrian organization.

"There wasn't a day I didn't see a smile on her face," Peterson said.

More importantly, she said, Franta touched hundreds of lives as a teacher, mother and volunteer in the equestrian community — and will be sorely missed, Peterson said.

"She loved life and to have something like this happen to her is unfathomable," she said. "We're just in shock."

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  1. May god lay his healing hand on her family and friends I shall pray for her.

  2. KillerB.....a little respect and sympathy would be nice here.

  3. My heart hurts for her and her family. This is horrible and no one deserves this. Rest in peace Mary Beth Franta. You will be missed by all you touched in your short life.

  4. "KillerB.....a little respect and sympathy would be nice here."

    Noindex -- by posting an empty and meaningless warm and fuzzy comment that does nothing to ease the suffering of those toward whom that comment is directed? Then have a nice day, Thomas.

    "...how little does the common herd know of the nature of right and truth." - Socrates in Plato's "Euthyphro" (about 399 B.C.E.)

  5. "...humans with a sense of greater cause reach out with an empathetic touch."

    ElJeffe -- no, "the point" would be reaching out is empty and meaningless unless it actually accomplishes some good. Posting here with nothing more is about as useful as telling someone with real problems to "have a nice day" -- like making that stupid remark to someone obviously homeless without putting a couple bucks or a sandwich in his hand. Or like the bible's comment found in one of the Peters about telling that person in need "be ye warmed and filled!" then just walking away without doing either.

    The above exchange, which the Sun unfortunately removed, is a prime example of herdspeak.

    "Mankind cannot bear too much reality." -- T.S. Eliot

  6. RIP Mary Beth Franta, let's hope that LVMPD makes this a high priority. This sounds like a random act and another sad example of why we need to arm ourselves. Start the process for your CCW today!

  7. It's a sad day for us all when we lose a cheerful person who tried to improve our lot.

    That said, I'm guessing that Metro already has a list of possible leads. While it's possible that this murder was the result of a random act of violence, my guess is that the victim was being stalked, and the stalker got the chance to become a murderer and took it.

    My condolences to friends and family. May justice come swiftly so that your grief may pass.

  8. Why post warm and fuzzy comments? I can answer that... My daughter was Mary Beth's student and earlier this year Molasky (and my daughter)also lost a 14 year old friend to Leukemia. So I'm sorry but I think friends and family that are trying not to imagine the terror and fear of Ms. Franta's last minutes could use a little warm and fuzzy. I'm sure you're not thing about the family and friends that are just hearing the news and are trying to get information about memorial services and vigils but remember this... The first amendment is the Right and Freedom of Speech but a Right shouldn't be squandered because it's free to you.

  9. How terribly sad for her friends and family. My condolences and hope the worthless POS is apprehended as quickly as possible. The world has become such a crazed place. Truly sad!

  10. My daughter loved having Ms. Franta as her science teacher last year! Our prayers go out to Ms. Franta, her family, her friends and her students. Rest in peace Ms. Franta.

  11. She is (was) my second period teacher. And i just found out today she was dead, counselors came in to talk about her death while i was in her class with a substitute. R.I.P Mrs.Franta, I hope you like our reif we made for you today!
    Love Michael, youre best/worst student!
    Guys, please remember that you are blessed. Dont take advantage of ANYTHING!

  12. This is just terrible. God Bless her and her family. Let's hope Metro catches culprit(s) swiftly.

  13. RIP Ms. Franta. You will be missed.