A university professor accused of shooting to death a homosexual prostitute and then dismembering the body with a rented chain saw told a police officer that the saw was bloodied when he used it to cut up a dead dog, the officer testified Monday.
Officer George Collier of the Los Angeles Police Department said he telephoned the West Hollywood apartment of Max Bernard Franc last Aug. 28, after employees of a Hollywood equipment rental agency reported that a chain saw rented by Franc had been returned bearing traces of blood and flesh.
A man who answered the telephone and identified himself as Franc said he had killed a dog with his car near Beverly Hills and had used the chain saw to cut it up, Collier told Los Angeles Municipal Judge David M. Horwitz. "He said he had to cut it up into smaller pieces to get rid of it," Collier testified. The man said he buried the dog north of Los Angeles somewhere off Interstate 5, the officer added.
Collier testified on the second day of a preliminary hearing for Franc, 57, a professor of public administration at Cal State Fresno who was arrested Aug. 29 for the killing of Tracy Leroy Nute, 18, described by authorities as a homosexual prostitute and would-be actor.
The policeman testified that he became suspicious only when Franc was unable to say precisely where he hit the dog. Asked by Franc's defense attorney if he thought it unusual for someone to report cutting up a dog with a chain saw, Collier replied, "It's not the normal type of thing a person would do, but Hollywood's a bizarre place."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Sterling E. Norris has said that authorities believe Franc shot Nute in the head in Franc's West Hollywood apartment in a "homosexual rage" and then dismembered the body. Nute's head and torso were found along a rural highway in Madera County on Aug. 25, four days after Franc rented the chain saw. On Aug. 27, the arms and legs of a man later identified as Nute were found near the Golden State Freeway in Valencia. Franc maintains a residence in Fresno as well as West Hollywood.
Franc's account of what happened, given to a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department homicide detective shortly after his arrest, has not yet been made public.
Norris on Monday asked Judge Horwitz to review the two, hourlong tape-recorded statements and admit them into evidence. Franc's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mark Kaiserman, said he will oppose the move because he believes Franc was not properly advised of his rights before the statements were taken.
Neither Norris nor Kaiserman would discuss details of what Franc told the detective, but Kaiserman told a reporter Friday that Franc had "rented the saw on behalf of the person who committed the murder and that was his only involvement in this crime."
Both the defense attorney and the prosecutor indicated Monday that they believe the murderer is the person who returned the chain saw to the Hollywood office of Jack Rents on Aug. 22.
Norris told reporters that, despite the contradictory testimony of one of his own witnesses, he believes that the man who returned the chain saw was Franc. "As far as we're concerned right now, we do not believe there was a second suspect," Norris said.