This is my fourth cover story for Cleveland Scene magazine, though in a supporting role to staff writer Sam Allard, who took the lead for this story about the saga involving Cleveland Museum of Art director David Franklin. I wrote about the death of Christina Gaston, the shoddy work by Cleveland Heights police and the county medical examiner, David Franklin’s inconsistent stories about the night Christina Gaston died, and the legal issues. My three sections include: “The night Christina died,” “Holes in the investigation and questions from the family” and “David Franklin’s account, in his own words.” From the first of my sections:
Christina Gaston’s bedroom in the old brick apartment building on Euclid Heights was cluttered with the accessories of a stylish, artsy 34-year-old woman — books, high heels, shopping bags, a rolling black suitcase with clothes piled on top. On one side of her bed is a lint roller resting on the ledge of the music stand that must have held hundreds of pages of Christina’s sheet music as she played her violin. On the other side is a white nightstand on which sits an old paperback copy of Larry Niven’s science fiction book, The Ringworld Engineers, next to her Hello Kitty alarm clock and a copy of The Baron in the Trees.
She died there on April 29.
According to Cleveland Heights police officer Andrew Trhlin’s official report that night, he and officer Douglas Olp got a call at 12:13 a.m. — Sunday night into Monday morning — to respond to a report of an unconscious woman at the apartment. David Franklin had just dialed 911 to report finding his friend hanging. They arrived and were flagged down by Franklin waiting for them outside and led to the apartment’s back door and then the bedroom, where they found “an unresponsive white female in the rear bedroom leaning over the bed.” Her face and hands were purple, and there was a white rope hanging from the ceiling fan, “the other end of the rope was near Gaston’s head, however, we could not confirm it was around her neck due to her positioning on the bed, her hair, and the heavy green coat she was wearing.” At 12:20 a.m., Cleveland Heights fire showed up — police and fire respond to calls like this in tandem — and she was officially pronounced dead six minutes later. Trhlin called the county coroner’s office at 12:51 and an investigator showed up a half hour later.