Johnson County murder suspect allegedly fled Kansas to avoid prosecution: U.S. Marshals

A New Mexico man is accused of fleeing Kansas as he is wanted for murder in the killing of a 53-year-old Johnson County woman who was found dead in an Olathe hotel room in late January.

Franklin Bluelake, the alleged fugitive, is accused by the U.S. Marshals Service of hiding out of state to avoid criminal prosecution in the killing of Rhoda Morgan, of Gardner. An affidavit filed in the U.S. District of Kansas on Monday says Bluelake is the prime suspect in Morgan’s killing.

On Jan. 29., Olathe police officers were dispatched to the Econo Lodge at 20662 W. 151st Street to check the welfare of a guest who had not checked out by late morning. Responding officers found Morgan dead inside a hotel room, prompting a death investigation.

On Jan. 31, the Olathe Police Department announced the case was being investigated as a homicide following close work between investigators and the Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Office.

In an affidavit seeking federal criminal charges against Bluelake, a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office detective and U.S. Marshals task force member wrote that the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office charged Bluelake with first-degree murder on Feb. 2 and had issued a warrant for his arrest.

An autopsy revealed Morgan was “murdered and suffered a broken neck.” Investigators were led to Bluelake as a suspect based on surveillance video from the area, interviews with Morgan’s relatives and “other investigative techniques,” according to court documents.

On Feb. 1, authorities spoke with relatives of Bluelake, who relayed that he told them he was in Texas and that “no one will find him.” A vehicle registered in Bluelake’s name was later discovered in the Flagstaff, Arizona area, according to court documents.

“It was later learned Bluelake is potentially hiding out on Tribal Land in that area in an attempt to avoid prosecution,” the affidavit says.

Other details about the case, including the alleged motive, remain unknown.

Morgan’s homicide is the first investigated by Olathe police in 2023. Last year, the city saw a total of two homicides, according to data maintained by The Star.

Correction: An earlier version of this article used the incorrect dates for the Olathe police death investigation and homicide announcement. The death investigation began Jan. 29, and the announcement that the case was considered a homicide came on Jan. 31.