Deputies later found a vehicle registered to Franco's parents just north of the property at the dead end of a gravel road.
Crews with the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office, Iowa State Patrol, La Porte City police and fire departments used airplanes, horses and all-terrain vehicles to look for Franco on Sunday and Monday. Officers searched the Klima Wildlife Area and other woodlands, flood plains and fields west of the Cedar River around La Porte City. Franco's parents also traveled to help with the effort.
At about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 1, crews found bare footprints and dog footprints headed south from the property along the river. Authorities believe the resident's bloodhound followed Franco. Authorities also found a pair of sweatpants, but it wasn't immediately clear if they were associated with Franco.
According to the WCF Courier, those close to Franco didn't report any unusual behavior, circumstances or medical concerns, although roommates and friends did notice he had been down over the weekend.
On Monday, April 2, 2012, Joel Bishop, a La Porte City man out for his morning bike ride, found Franco. Bishop was riding his bike north along the recreational trail near the Cedar River. When he got to the gazebo just south of Weiden Road he was greeted by the missing bloodhound. Inside the gazebo, he found Franco. The student didn't have a jacket but was wearing a fleece vest. Bishop hadn't been actively looking for the missing student, but he had heard about his disappearance on the news. Things clicked.
Franco wanted to keep walking, so Bishop stayed with him, offering him peanut butter crackers and his sweatshirt, which Franco declined. He said the student seemed slightly dazed but could hold a conversation. Bishop was without his cell phone and went to two houses before finally finding some construction workers who were able to call the authorities.
Black Hawk County sheriff’s deputies and La Porte medics then caught up with Franco. Authorities said he resisted medical help and did not seem to recognize his parents. Thompson told the WCF Courier that the student wasn't making much sense.
Yet, deputies were able to piece together Franco's trail. After leaving the house on La Porte Road, the student headed east and then turned southeast at the Cedar River. From there he met up with Wolf Creek and followed that west almost into La Porte City before heading back north on the bike path.
“He made a big figure six from the house, a big lazy loop,” Thompson said.
Franco apparently shed his sweatpants along the way. He pulled a plumbers outfit from a parked vehicle north of the LaPorte Road home and donned that as he continued on his way. He apparently spent Sunday night outside.
Even though Franco’s entered the La Porte City home and took the work clothes, Thompson said he isn’t considering any criminal charges in connection with the incident.
“This is just a young man who needed help,” Thompson said.
Thompson suspects a medical issue was behind the events. He said friends were adamant that the student didn’t drink, and this was uncharacteristic for him.
Medics with La Porte City Ambulance took Franco to Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo.
Reinitz, Jeff. (2012, April 2). Missing Hawkeye Community College student found alive. WCF Courier. Accessed Sept. 2, 2012 from: