Boyfriend accused of killing UNCC professor denies charges against him

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The man accused of murdering a UNC Charlotte professor inside her apartment made his first court appearance Tuesday morning.

Donny Franklin, 45, was booked into jail late Monday afternoon.

Channel 9 was in the courtroom for Franklin's 10 a.m. appearance.

Franklin didn't appear to show any emotion while in court, even when the judge told him he was charged with first-degree murder and could get the death penalty.

Franklin's attorney said he denies the charges against him.

Dr. Jeanne Skinner was found dead Friday morning after officers were called to the popular Ayrsley Town Center on Kings Parade Boulevard, just off South Tryon Street near Interstate 485.

Reporter Glenn Counts learned the homicide happened inside The Lofts at Charleston Row.

Investigators told Channel 9 that Skinner's death appeared to be domestic violence-related. Her murder marks Charlotte's 62nd of the year.

The judge said there were no previous domestic violence orders against Franklin. No information was given out about Franklin's relationship with Skinner.

Police believe the two had only been dating a few weeks and that's why none of her colleagues knew she had a boyfriend.

But criminal records showed that Franklin was arrested in Roanoke, Virginia back in 1996 for assault on several occasions.

Franklin is a full-time employee of a medical supply company called Baxter Healthcare. He also has two sons who are in their 20s.

Channel 9 spoke with Skinner's colleagues at the university, where she was just starting her second year. They said she was a rising star in the psychology department, loved by her students and co-workers.

[READ MORE: Colleague says homicide victim was a rising professor at UNCC]

Dr. Eric Heggestad, the department chair, said they are all in disbelief.

"It feels like losing a family member in a lot of ways,” Heggestad said. “She hadn't been here long but she was making a really strong impact."

Skinner was also involved in research at a local senior center to improve cognitive function in aging adults. She moved to Charlotte after she earned her PhD at Howard University.

Details on a memorial for Skinner are expected to be announced in the coming days.

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