Florida Keys

Key Largo woman could get life in prison for raping a child in her custody

Jennifer Renee Franklin
Jennifer Renee Franklin

A Key Largo woman was arrested Friday on a capital sexual battery charge on a minor.

The woman’s boyfriend was arrested earlier this week on charges of routinely beating the boy she’s accused of raping.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes detectives arrested Jennifer Renee Franklin, 41, on felony sexual battery on a minor and felony cruelty toward a child charges at 12:45 p.m. Friday. She’s being held in county jail on an $800,000 bond. If convicted on the former charge, Franklin could receive life in prison.

Franklin’s live-in boyfriend, Randell Howell, 36, was arrested Monday at his home off mile marker 101.5 in Key Largo on two counts of cruelty toward a child. He was released from jail Wednesday on a bond of $25,000.

He’s accused of beating the boy regularly, making him clean urine off the toilet using his own toothbrush and withholding food and clothing as a form of punishment. Deputies found bruises on the boy’s arms, legs and hips.

Randall Howell.jpg
Randell Howell MCSO

“The victim had visible swelling and bruising throughout his body, both knees, right butt area, legs and foot,” Detective Bernardo Barrios wrote in his arrest report. “The injuries depicted different stages of healing, from redness to purplish bruises.”

Barrios added that the boy “has been systematically abused both physically and mentally.”

The boy is now in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families. It’s not clear if the agency had been called to the home in the past. Beatriz Lopez, a DCF spokeswoman, said in an email Friday that “information regarding any history with the Department for this child is confidential.”

Deputies were originally called to the house around midnight Saturday by a neighbor with whom the boy sought shelter.

When deputies went the child’s house the next day, Franklin and Howell were not aware the boy was gone and the house smelled of marijuana smoke, according to a Sheriff’s Office arrest report.

Howell admitted beating the boy “when he did something wrong,” according to the report. Franklin, who was married to the boy’s biological father before he died, said she home schools him because he has trouble in public school. The boy, however, told deputies he’s kept from school so teachers don’t see his bruises and so he won’t report the abuse happening at home.

This is a developing story.

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