Savannah native and Lowcountry car dealer and businessman OC Welch is continuing his push for answers in recent unsolved murders. Rewards are totaling more than $20,000 now for tips leading to an arrest.
Welch became very involved over the last month, trying to spread the word and keep the murder case of firefighter Wesley Franklin and other recent homicides in the public eye through TV and newspaper ads and a new billboard coming next week to President Street.
Thursday night into Friday morning, Welch caused more of a stir on Facebook with various posts and information his campaign has produced about the Wesley Franklin murder case in Sandfly.
However, the posts have caught the attention of not only Franklin's family, but the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department.
Welch's recent Facebook posts garnered attention and many comments as he included pictures, mug shots and a letter he has received along with other tips and information through his media campaign to find the killers and his own investigation into Franklin's death.
WTOC asked Welch if he was worried he was putting too much information out into the public and not letting detectives do their job.
"I think everything should go out there and I think if detectives were 100 percent focused on this, they would have an arrest by now," Welch told WTOC.
Since last month, Welch has offered his own money and now is receiving donations to add to the reward fund for not only Wesley Franklin's murder in Sandfly, but the recent shooting deaths of 23-year-old Rebecca Foley and 17-year-old Evan Colquit, both on Savannah's southside.
Wesley Franklin's father, Jim Franklin, says it's been a long eight months with no answers. When Welch joined their cause, Franklin says the businessman brought instant publicity and reward money to find his son's killer. While he is grateful, Franklin says he fears the recent Facebook posts may hurt the investigation more than help.
"It's old information kind of being rehashed. Majority of the information has been investigated.," Franklin said. "People see this and they jump the gun and speculate."
Franklin says he worries detectives may be slowed down by people bringing them old leads and tips. He knows Welch's heart is in the right place, but he wants to give detectives the benefit of the doubt.
"I can't thank OC enough," Franklin said. "Our families are working with a detective. He's a professional and knows what he is doing and we trust him. He has promised if there is anything new or an arrest, I will be the first to know. I think he is a man of his word."
Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett released this statement in regards to Welch's Facebook post and comments to WTOC:
Homicide detectives have been following leads since the night this shooting occurred and have interviewed and investigated dozens of subjects who resemble the shooter pictured. Homicides are the top priority of a violent crimes unit and every potential lead is investigated. Some cases are quickly solved and information in others must be developed through pain staking police work. Many of the comments made by those who are trying to help are completely erroneous and disrupt the investigation. Our detectives will continue to focus on this and all homicides until the killer is identified, not matter how long it takes.
While the investigation continues, Welch is planning more commercials and billboards and is receiving more reward money donations.
On Feb. 11, community members, along with Franklin's family and Welch, are hosting a crime town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Moose Lodge in Savannah. The public is invited to attend.