High school students hope video will help solve 2006 murder case

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FRANKLIN – Nearly seven years after the brutal murders of 26-year-old Chynna Dickus and her 10-year-old stepson Blake Dickus, the killer is still on the loose—and the investigation has hit a standstill.

“We’ve come to know the family very well, and our heart goes out to them,” said Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan. “We want it solved just as bad as they do.”

Chynna and Blake were both stabbed in their home in July 2006. Investigators found Blake had also been beaten and smothered. Franklin detectives have kept the investigation active, and they’ve tried to remind the community about the case each year.

Now, they’re trying a new approach.

The Franklin Police Department is enlisting the help of two students at Franklin Community High School to help produce a public service announcement about the murders. Junior Austin Schmidt and senior Mason Clark will take on that project, the likes of which they’ve never seen.

“It’s a little daunting, honestly,” said Clark. “It puts a lot of pressure on us. I think that’s why Austin and I really want to get it done.”

“It’s wonderful that I can have the opportunity as a student in high school to possibly solve a murder or possibly give a huge piece of evidence,” said Schmidt.

For the next month, detectives will share information about the Dickus case to help give the students direction. Part of the project will include new interviews with members of the Dickus family.

“They’re going to be showing their true emotions and it’s good for everybody to know that this hasn’t gone away for them,” said O’Sullivan. “It’s something they deal with every day.”

Although the students weren’t old enough to fully understand the case as it was first unfolding, they each realize their personal connection to the murders.

Blake Dickus should now be their classmate at Franklin Community High School.

“He would be 16 now,” said Clark. “He should be getting his driver’s license, he should be playing sports, doing music, whatever it is. (He should be) having a good time in high school.”

The plan is to have the PSA shot, written and edited in about a month, just in time for Clark to graduate. Police hope it will air on local TV and in at least one movie theater over the summer.

Ultimately, they hope the 90-second video will jog some memories and give police new leads to follow.

It will also be a learning experience for the two high schoolers as they put their education to work for a real-world application.

“To benefit the community,” said Schmidt. “To help these family members get what is just.”