Lonnie Painter pleads guilty to federal weapons charges
OSCEOLA, Ind. - An Osceola businessman with a criminal past pleads guilty to federal weapons charges in late June.
Lonnie Painter ran a company in South Bend that was raided last fall and sources tell ABC57 he could also be linked to some human remains found near a local cemetery, that was also 6 miles away from Painters home.
The human remains were found in the woods near the Chapel Hill Funeral Home in March. On Wednesday, Investigators confirmed it was the body of Natily Franklin. Lonnie Painter’s late wife is also buried there.
Now investigators are trying to figure out what happened to the 41-year-old.
Natily Franklin just got out of jail last fall when she suddenly disappeared.
Her family said it just wasn’t like her to run off without a word. Although none of them wanted to go on camera, they did say they knew from the beginning that something was wrong.
It was Painter, a man convicted of murder in Tennessee and attempted murder in La Porte in the past, who bailed Franklin out of the Cass County Jail after her arrest on meth charges.
Jason Carter, a bail bondsman tipped off police when Franklin didn’t show up for court.
“With something like this, you know, you’re looking for a body, you’re not looking for a live person,” Carter said.
Carter was looking for Franklin, and another woman named Heather Button that Painter himself had bailed out of the Cass County Jail on meth charges when he stumbled upon illegal guns at painters shop on East Tutt Street triggering the raid.
“We hit the place, picked up Heather, put her in the back of the car, did not find Natily and we went to secure our assets towards the bond so that which was a truck and an SUV,” he said.
When asked whether he thinks Painter had something to do with Franklin’s disappearance Carter nodded.
“Yes, yes I do,” he said. “We said something is not right here. It’s just not normal for someone to vanish and you not know, especially when you’re holding a $31,000 note.”
However, one of Franklin’s family members tells me she isn’t so sure saying “I don’t know what to think,” she said. “But everything that happens will come to light.”
That family member wanted to remain anonymous but she said that she just wants the person who killed Natily to come forward so her family can find closure.
The St. Joseph County Homicide Unit is still investigating. So far no one has been charged with Franklin’s death and the St. Joseph County Prosecutors Offices says they have not formally named any suspects, in part because her cause of death is still unknown.