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Susan Nason’s murder was at the centerpiece of a national conversation about repressed memory, but has her killing ever been solved?
Nason was only 8 years old when she was abducted while walking to her school in California’s Foster City in 1969. Her body was located three months later near the Crystal Springs Reservoir, located a few miles away from Foster City.
For twenty years, her case remained unsolved.
Then, in 1989, her childhood friend Eileen Franklin came forward with a remarkable story. She claimed that she had suddenly recovered a repressed memory, one in which she witnessed her dad George Franklin rape and then kill Nason.
The case is explored in “Buried,” a new four-part docuseries available on Showtime.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Eileen’s memories, which were vivid and detailed in nature, gave police enough cause to arrest and charge her father with Nason’s murder. The case marked the first in which recovered memory was used in any criminal prosecution, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1995. It also “sparked a national debate about the power and limitations of memory in the court of law,” Showtime notes in a press release.
During George’ Franklin's very high profile trial, Eileen and her sister Janice swore under oath that their dad was a pedophile who sexually abused them both. Eileen also swore that her memories of Nason’s murder were not induced by any hypnosis. Because California’s Supreme Court had ruled that testimony-based hypnosis-induced memories are unreliable, her testimony would have been barred from the trial if she had been hypnotized.
The jury believed Eileen's recovered memories, which served as the main source of evidence in the case. They found George Franklin guilty of killing Nason in 1990. He was subsequently sentenced to life behind bars. While it seemed as though Nason's killing had finally been solved, George Franklin's conviction was overturned in 1995 for several reasons, including the trial judge’s refusal to allow evidence that could have shown that the recovered details of Eileen's memory could have been found in newspaper articles of the murder, according to The National Registry of Exonerations.
While the state geared up to conduct a retrial, Eileen and her sister had a falling out and in turn, Janice exposed that Eileen had in fact been hypnotized before having memories about Nason’s killing. Eileen was then barred from taking the stand again. Prosecutors decided not to retry George Franklin and he was released in 1996 after he served six years behind bars.
It remains unclear who killed Nason.
“It’s really hard to determine who the perpetrator is. It still could be George," Ari Pines, one of the directors behind "Buried" told Oxygen.com. "Even if you don’t believe Eileen and believe that her memory is false, he still may have done it. Everyone in that family suspected him for a good reason. He was a pedophile, he knew the victim, he lived close by. But it’s very hard to reach any certainty in this case.”
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