Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 | 2:48 p.m.
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Location where body was found
Metro Police detectives believe the husband of Las Vegas teacher Marybeth Franta was drunk when he got into an argument with his wife, killed her and then drove to a desert area behind a grocery store to dump her body, according to an arrest report released Thursday by the Clark County District Attorney’s office.
The report also said the man is seen on surveillance video from both the grocery store and a nearby convenience store after the body was left in the desert area.
In the report, police say they believe Mark Douglas Franta, 50, became intoxicated at a grand opening party for a friend’s motorcycle shop Saturday while his wife was at a friend’s wedding. When she returned home, police said they believe an argument ensued and Mark Franta killed his wife before loading her body into the back of her SUV and dumping the body behind the Albertsons store at Tenaya Way and Craig Road.
Police said that after leaving the body, Mark Franta drove his wife’s 2002 Mazda Tribute to the grocery store’s parking lot, left the vehicle unlocked with her purse inside, and walked home. Investigators found the Tribute on Monday in the Albertsons parking lot.
Mark Franta had filed a missing persons report on his wife Sunday, the same day a woman’s body with no identification was found. The Frantas home, near Torrey Pines Drive and Harmon Avenue, is about 10 miles south of the Albertsons where the woman was found.
On Monday, homicide detectives investigating the woman’s death learned of the missing persons report Mark Franta had filed on his wife and began investigating to see if the missing woman and the homicide victim were one in the same.
On Wednesday, Mary Elizabeth “Marybeth” Franta’s body was positively identified and Mark Franta was arrested in connection with her death. The Clark County Coroner’s Office said Marybeth Franta, 49, died of asphyxiation and had blunt force trauma injuries on a substantial portion of her body. Her death was ruled a homicide.
According to the arrest report, a review of Albertsons security video shows a person who resembles Mark Franta parking the Mazda SUV in front of the store at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, exiting the vehicle, and walking west toward Tenaya Way.
Police also obtained surveillance video from a convenience store at Tenaya Way and Alexander Road that shows a man believed to be Mark Franta entering the store about 1:45 a.m. Sunday, making a purchase and then leaving, the report stated.
Mark Franta had reported his wife missing Sunday afternoon, telling police he had last seen her at about 2:30 p.m. the previous day.
He said he had washed his wife’s Mazda Tribute so she could go to a wedding. Missing persons detectives interviewed Patty Coleman, a friend of Marybeth Franta, who told police the two had been at a wedding Saturday. Coleman said she dropped Marybeth Franta off at her home at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Detectives interviewed Mark Franta on Monday. He told investigators that while his wife was at a wedding Saturday, he went to a friend’s party for the grand opening of his motorcycle shop.
He said he had been drinking at the party, and told investigators that drinking had “caused problems in his life and his relationship with Marybeth,” police wrote in the arrest report. Mark Franta said his wife called him at about 7 p.m. and realized he had been drinking, at which point she said she was going to check on her horses, which she boarded near Tenaya and Deer Springs Way.
Mark Franta said he left the party at about 8:30 p.m. and repeatedly tried to call his wife’s cell phone, but it went to voicemail. He said that at 11:30 p.m., he decided to walk to where the horses were boarded to check on his wife because he didn’t want to drive while intoxicated. He walked as far as Smoke Ranch Road and then turned around to go home.
He said he was stopped by two Metro officers on the Rainbow Boulevard overpass over U.S. 95 on his way home. Officers stopped him at 3:19 a.m. and said he appeared intoxicated, but he was released.
On Wednesday, homicide detectives confronted Mark Franta with surveillance video they obtained from Albertsons and the convenience store. In their report, investigators said he didn’t provide an explanation for being in the video, nor did he deny being there.
He was taken into custody and booked into the Clark County Detention Center, where he is being held without bail on one count of murder. He is scheduled to appear Monday before Judge Eric A. Goodman in Las Vegas Justice Court.
Metro Police began asking for the public's help Tuesday in finding Marybeth Franta, who taught science at Irwin and Susan Molasky Junior High School. She had worked for the Clark County School District since 1993.
Marybeth Franta was an avid horsewoman and active in the Nevada State Horsemen’s Association. Her body is to be cremated. Viewing hours are open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. Friday at Palm Mortuary, 7400 W. Cheyenne Ave.