The Cedar Hill Mayor of 17 years, Rob Franke is talking about the death of his stepson for the first time.

Police say 31-year-old Joshua Slaven broke into a neighbor’s home on Christmas Eve.

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The homeowner, Gareth Long, warned Slaven he had a gun and told him to leave. When Slaven instead advanced further into the home, police say Long shot Slaven one time, killing him.

“For him to go down there [to the Long home], we can’t fathom a reason. We could spend the rest of our lives wondering why,” said Franke.

For Franke, the news came with the knock of a police officer on the door, as the family set up for Christmas around 1 a.m. that morning. Earlier in the evening, Franke says, he and his wife told Josh to leave their home, sensing that he may have been on drugs at the time.

“He said, ‘Just call the police on me. So we did. They came out to the house. He’d left his car there, but they couldn’t find him. Looked around the yard and couldn’t find him. He was gone, and the next thing we knew, we got a knock on the door,” said Franke.

He says finding out his son had been shot, was overwhelming.

“He wasn’t normally a violent kid. He was an addict, and troubled, no doubt,” Franke said.

Franke says he, his wife, and their other children have struggled to help Josh is his battle with drug use and addiction since Josh was a teenager.

“There was a wonderful kid inside there that we love deeply. Every parent loves their child, and you cannot get around the fact that there were these two pieces to this kid. The addict — you grow to hate that part. You grow to get weary of it. The cycle’s hard. There’s also the part of just enjoying time together with a sober kid. The hopes and dreams and him trying to be a good father,” said Franke.

Franke says in recent months, Josh was doing well. He made it through rehab, and outpatient therapy, but around Thanksgiving, Franke says, he saw signs that his son was using again.

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Cedar Hill police reports show Slaven was arrested twice recently. On November 17, records show police arrested Slaven at the Mayor’s house on a family violence charge. The police report said the mayor confronted his step son about his drug addiction and asked him to leave. But the report says Slaven became angry and grabbed Mayor Franke’s shoulder.

“He spent a few days in jail. We were hoping that would be a wakeup call. It’s a class-E misdemeanor. It’s not as serious as if he hit,” said Franke.

On November 25, police arrested Slaven again for violating the protective order after he returned to Franke’s house and asked his sister to let him in.

“You go through a lot of blame. Intellectually, I go through the right answers, but emotionally, all of us in the family still wonder what we could have done differently,” said Mayor Franke.

He says his heart goes out to Gareth Long and his family. The Frankes say they do not hold the homeowner responsible in any way.

“No parent wants their kid to cause someone else pain. We’ve thought a lot about that. Our hearts go out to them. We’ve prayed for them sincerely. We’ve asked God to give them peace. My mind can’t get around what he must be going through. We totally believe our son is responsible for his actions,” Franke said.

The Mayor says, by sharing this story, he hopes to let other families of people struggling with addiction to know, they are not alone.

Chris Knox, the attorney for Gareth Long, sent this statement to CBS11.

“Although Mr. Long remains very distraught about what occurred on Christmas Eve, he fully understands that this situation has been extremely tolling on everybody involved. Mr. Long has the utmost respect for Mayor Franke and a sincere appreciation for the level of class, dignity and stability the mayor has demonstrated throughout this tough time. The Mayor’s handling of this unfortunate situation is exactly what we hope for from our elected officials. His transparency and his steadfast determination to use this emotional situation to educate others for the betterment of society is very commendable. Additionally, moving forward, Mr. Long hopes for the opportunity to assist the mayor in any community outreach efforts or charitable programs that may help, as much as possible, to turn such a sad event into some measurable level of positive action.”

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