Suspect in slaying dies in jail


The Ladson man accused of killing a Grand Strand doctor in Kansas last year has been found dead in his jail cell, authorities said.

John Meredith Hodges, 45, was found unresponsive Monday in the Johnson County, Kan., jail, said Master Deputy Tom Erickson. Efforts to resuscitate him failed.

Erickson said the death is being investigated as a suicide, but released no other details.

Hodges was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Franchesca D. Brown of Myrtle Beach. The high-achieving young woman served nine years in the Air Force and earned a medical degree at Duke University.

The beloved pediatrician had just taken a job caring for children at Community Health Partners in Conway. Friends said she had a keen interest in helping underprivileged kids and fighting childhood obesity.

Her body was found Sept. 12 in woods near an Overland Park hotel. She was in the city to attend a medical conference.

The Kansas City Star reported that Hodges told detectives that he strangled Brown during an argument inside her hotel room.

Detectives said Hodges and Brown had an on-again, off-again relationship. Investigators also determined that Brown might have invited Hodges to meet her at the conference.

Hodges grew up in Virginia and worked in the timber business. He declared bankruptcy in 2005, saddled with $1.5 million in debt and $367,000 in assets to pay them off, court records show.

He closed his business, got divorced and moved to the Lowcountry, where he started a new timber company, said his former wife, who is the mother of one of his four children.

Hodges lived for a time in a gated complex in North Charleston. In December 2011 he married a 40-year-old native of South America, according to county records. When arrested, he listed his address as a home in the Tranquil Hills subdivision of Ladson, in Dorchester County.

He and his new wife reportedly had separated by the time of his arrest. She said he had moved to Colombia, a country where he had friends and connections, but she was told by authorities not to say more about his activities there.

Police would say only that Hodges had interests in the South American country, and it was not uncommon for him to travel to Colombia.

That’s where investigators found him after Brown’s death. He had flown there from Kansas City. The FBI and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration helped secure a federal fugitive warrant for Hodges, and Colombian authorities took him into custody, authorities announced at a Sept. 17 press conference.

Hodges was brought back to Kansas and made his first court appearance on Sept. 20. He was charged with the slaying and eight counts of identity theft, one charge of a computer crime and two counts of credit-card fraud.

Authorities told the Star that those charges are related to the use of Brown’s identity.