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Man accused of murdering girlfriend admits to cutting victim's throat three times

INDIO, Calif. - An Indio man charged with murdering his girlfriend reiterated today that he has no memory of slitting her throat at their home because he was high on methamphetamine.

Michael John Franco, 46, is accused of cutting Jill Grant's throat with a box cutter, then running her over with her Toyota Prius after the initial attack failed to kill the 41-year-old high school teacher.

Her body was found at the Golf Club at Terra Lago in the early morning hours of Dec. 23, 2013.

Franco, who faces life in prison without parole if convicted, admitted on the witness stand Thursday to cutting the victim's throat three times, driving to a gas station in her car and driving to a Chase bank afterward to withdraw cash using her ATM card.

However, Franco said he was in the midst of a meth-fueled haze at the time that left his memory ``fuzzy'' for a period of nearly 24 hours starting from the night of Dec. 22, 2013, until the following evening.

Franco also testified that Grant not only sanctioned his meth use for sexual purposes, but also provided the drugs when he had none on hand.

He said his memory of the night breaks down after injecting the meth while sitting on their couch, but agreed with nearly all of the timeline outlined by Deputy District Attorney Kristi Kirk, who said the couple began arguing around 8:40 that night, and Grant's throat was cut sometime before 12:30 the following morning.

Franco testified that the argument stemmed from a text message he received from his friend, who was asking for Franco's drug dealer's phone number. He said Grant became enraged over the text because they had an agreement for him to only use meth in the house, due to his history of addiction.

After the fight, which Franco said included her suggesting a break-up, the defendant said he remembers little until the following night, when he showed up at a friend's home in Palm Desert.

Franco testified he remembered Grant bleeding and asking him to clean up her blood that had collected on the floor, putting her inside the Prius and calling his drug dealer for more meth about 10 minutes after they were recorded on an inadvertent voice message sent to Franco's friend.

In the recording, Grant appeared to be telling Franco that they should call police and report that she was attacked by someone else.

He responded that he would take her to a hospital and call 911, at which point Grant responded by saying, "Wait until I can think of another idea. What if I drive the car someplace and call myself and say I was attacked? Would that work (inaudible).''

Franco said he did not remember making those statements, but admitted it was his and Grant's voices on the recording. Phone records show he called his drug dealer about 10 minutes afterward.

He also testified that he remembered being arrested in the early morning hours of Dec. 24, but doesn't recall recorded statements he made, which included telling police ``You're going to have to (expletive) shoot me,'' that he had drained his bank accounts and that he was poised to flee to Mexico.

The prosecutor said Wednesday that it was unreasonable to believe that Grant would support him using meth after she spent extensive time ensuring that Franco stay sober, including by supporting his trips to rehab and drug-testing him at their home.

"At what point in the relationship did she change her tune and say to hell with sobriety, I want marathon meth sex?'' Kirk asked the defendant.

"It does seem a bit outrageous,'' Franco responded, but he did not recant his statements.

Franco testified that Grant asked him to shoot up methamphetamine on the night of Dec. 22 because it allowed him to perform longer sexually and that he and Grant engaged in meth-induced sex ``on special occasions.''

However, Kirk produced text messages indicating that his drug use strained their relationship.

Messages stemming from two incidents indicate Franco stole money from her, with Grant reproaching him in the messages, saying that her paycheck would be lighter as a result and asking him if this was how he acted when he got high.

Franco admitted in court that his behavior was "deplorable,'' but said he did not recall if he had taken the money for drugs. In another text, Grant stated that she didn't want him drinking. Kirk asked if this was because drinking would typically lead to him using meth, to which Franco responded, "Yes.''

Franco testified that in addition to sexual uses, Grant was  "fascinated'' by the "ritual'' of meth use, but did not deny that she also regularly encouraged his sobriety.

A popular Palm Desert math teacher, Grant grew up in the Santa Rosa Mountains above Palm Springs and attended Palm Desert Middle School and Palm Desert High School, graduating in 1990.

She attended College of the Desert, then transferred to Cal State San Bernardino, where she majored in mathematics. She taught math at Palm Springs High School for three years, starting in 1995, then began teaching at her alma mater in 1998.


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