Who killed Michael Francke?

It might just be the biggest mystery in Oregon politics. Michael Francke, the director of the Oregon prisons, was murdered in the parking lot of his office. Frank Gable, a small-time thief, was convicted of the crime. Kevin Francke, the victim's brother, thinks Gable is innocent.

There are all kinds of swirling conspiracy theories, counter-theories, allegations, and missing details. Heck, there's even been a movie starring Angelina Jolie and written by the Tribune's Phil Stanford.

Now, the Oregonian claims to have put the matter to rest with a five-month investgiation into all the conspiracy theories.

Sixteen years later, doubts still echo about the case. They are fed by [Kevin] Francke's conviction that a conspiracy led to his brother's death and by Gable's appeal, which argues that his lawyers never presented his alibi at trial.

In an effort to get to the bottom of one of the state's most sensational crimes, The Oregonian conducted the deepest examination of the case since Gable's conviction in 1991. Over five months, reporters reviewed thousands of pages of documents, tracked down dozens of key figures, and spent more than eight hours interviewing Gable.

In the end, the paper found no substance to Kevin Francke's conspiracy theory. Nor does Gable's alibi hold up: The witnesses and evidence he cites fail to account for his whereabouts at the time Francke was stabbed.

Predictably, of course, the Portland Tribune responded with a point-by-point refutation:

The Sunday Oregonian published a story that claimed that no evidence exists to support long-standing allegations that Oregon Corrections Director Michael Francke may have been murdered because he was fighting corruption within his department.

But it left out facts that reveal that the full story of the slaying has yet to be told. ... Here are 10 facts not included in The Oregonian’s story...

And now, the Oregonian's reporters have produced their own ten-point rebuttal to the Tribune:

We went into the project with open minds about Gable's guilt and alternate theories of the murder. In the end, we drew different conclusions than the ones that Stanford and Francke have promoted for so long.

The 10 points raised by Jim Redden in the Trib's story have been kicked around for years. Our reporting showed that there's not much there. Most of the information that the Trib says we excluded wouldn't change conclusions. That's why we didn't cover this old ground in the first place.


  • Jammer (unverified)

    So does the Oregonian get reimbursed for doing the state's PR work?

  • allehseya (unverified)

    Sounds like the Tribune wants to write the sequel.

  • (Show?)

    As skeptical as I can be of Oregonian coverage, their refutation of the Tribune's top-10 list seems mostly pretty informed.

    I just find it interesting, given what has been referred to as the "unwritten rule" that The O doesn't mention the Trib, that they published a direct response at all.

  • (Show?)

    Also, I should say that given Stanford's now-and-then penchant for trying to score political hits even if he doesn't have all his facts in line, I'm skeptical when he pushes a theory even in the face of another paper methodically going through information he's never even seen for himself.

  • (Show?)

    Growing up in Salem - with friends' parents who worked for the Dept of Corrections - this was something discussed at dinner tables years after Frank Gable was convicted. I do remember, though, that in all of the discussions and all of the different theories, it was pretty much agreed upon that Frank Gable didn't do it. I wish I could remember all of the discussions now, but it all boiled down to the fact that there was a LOT of corruption in the corrections department and Gable was a scapegoat.

    If you'll remember - adding more scandal to the whole thing - the case made international and tabloid news when Gable's attorney, Karen Steele, potentially sacrificed her career to marry him. She was temporarily disbarred. I'm only bringing this up because she wound up working at a local restaurant that my friends and I used to frequent and we got to know her. She wasn't some crazy woman who fell for a con (his criminal record notwithstanding). She's an amazingly intelligent woman who believed in her client and happened to fall in love with him. She was quiet and reserved and very few people knew who, exactly, she was. She didn't talk about the case, of course, but getting to know Karen kind of put the exclamation point on Gables innocence. I believe Gable was in Idaho for a few years before being transferred to Florida and Karen moved to be closer to him and to work on his appeal. I haven't followed anything about the case in probably 12 years so I don't know exactly what wound up happening there. Though a quick search at findlaw shows that she has been reinstated and she's back in Salem - and is either still married to Frank or they might have split but she still uses his name.

    This was all so long ago and I was so young that the details are all fuzzy. But there are definitely some better suspects out there than Frank Gable. Michael Francke was a very well-respected man and there was no way that state and local agencies were going to let this go unsolved for very long. Gable was scapegoated, plain and simple, and no article - in The Oregonian of all things - is going to change my mind. In a nutshell, there was enough reasonable doubt that this part of the investigation should have been put to rest years ago. And in all of this time, it is less and less likely that Francke (or Gable) will ever really see justice.

  • Chris (unverified)

    I wouldn't wrap a fish in the Oregonian.

  • Jammer (unverified)

    I'm skeptical when he pushes a theory even in the face of another paper methodically going through information he's never even seen for himself.

    What are you, Sandy Rowe's One True B!tch?

    What's this "information" that's been "methodically" pored over that you speak of? Were you there or something - in the same room with those Oregonian reporters going through all that "evidence" the government has never seen fit to share with anyone else? Are you sure they didn't miss anything important?

    Oh what am I talking about....you're probably right. This paranoid talk of cover-up, innocent man in prison, need for a new trial and the like - it's probably all just sour grapes and loony conspiracy theorizing. Obviously, the Oregonian would never think of sitting on information just because it might be embarrassing to their news organization or politically damaging to power establishment elites in this state.

  • (Show?)

    What are you, Sandy Rowe's One True B!tch?

    You haven't read very much of what I've written over the last two and a half years, have you?

    What's this "information" that's been "methodically" pored over that you speak of?

    Nor, apparently, did you read the Oregonian reporters' responses to the Tribune.

  • Kevin B. Francke (unverified)

    Okay troops. Let's settle down.

    First off, the repeaters from the O spent a whole 5 months(on and off) digging...through what? 80% of it was the state's case from the discovery against Frank Gable. The other is the defense discovery. Where in the name of God did they find all of this, this 55,000 (yes, 55,000!)pages of information? It is courtesy of, hang on, Frank Gable himself.

    Frank Gable shoved a knife through my brothers heart, dead center, through and through, then through the lung. Another entirely through his left bicep. He lunged at Mike, my brother, and stabbed him vicously and repeatedly to cover up his crime of stealing absolutely nothing from a state-issued car parked in the "Reseved for the Director of Corrections" space at the Dome Building. That's a brilliant idea Frank! Motive and opportunity...we're halfway to the case.

    Frank Gable did not kill Michael Francke, period.

    He turned over his entire case files, including all of his attorney's work product to me, the brother of the victim. I in turn, chose to share it with the crack investigators from the little O. Gable is either insane or innocent to do this. I want him dead if there is one single, solitary thing that I can put my finger on that puts a knife in his hand that night. He knows it, and was prewarned beforehand.

    I already had 90 percent of what his attorneys gave me. I have one helluva'lot more than the state's script, since I've been down and dirty with this stinking thing for 16 years; that's 192 months kids. The other 10 percent from Frank gave me the last of the 1 percent that I was missing. That last percent helped a lot. Thank you Frank Gable. I guess you aren't crazy after all.

    But those guys at the Tribune must be, especially Redden. You know, the one who likes to confuse the issue with the facts, but...used to work at Willamette Week. Yes that WW that put Neil in the cold water wash extra rinse, courtesy of the information from that other idiot, Stanford, an Oregonian reject while he was the widest-read columnist in the northwest(that would be Portland too). The Trib could have one or two Pulitzer trophies in their case if they just had the balls, not to put to fine a point on it.

    I am, we are, that close to finally getting it on the table for all of the editors like Manzano at the O, to digest...and he is just the food taster!

    I left my email address if anyone feels the need. I would also suggest www.freefrankgable.com to anyone who wants to spend more than thirty seconds looking at what my parrot, Chester, was pooping on from the O. Parrot's are pretty damn smart, I should add; he's applied at the Oregonian. We'll see.

    hasta, Kevin

  • (Show?)

    Phil Stanford is a hack who thought he had stumbled across a Pulitzer prize in the Franke case.

    Since it will never be absolutely proven one way or the other, it will be a nice source of income for the rest of his "professional" life.

  • JohnnyRedman (unverified)

    Ah...the skilled investigators from the dead fish wrapper do it again. I wonder if they consulted with "police expert" Maxine Bernstein for some of her idiotic views.

    Kevin, I am sorry for your loss.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    I can't help but note the cheap, KXL-like "fishwrapper" label slapped on The Oregonian.

    Lars Larson named The Big O "fishwrap" after they refused to respond to his desperate, pathetic HOURLY emails to media critic Peter Carlin asking him for a mention -- ANY mention -- in the paper -- even one announcing his fifth marriage to his new Internet mail order bride named Tina.

    Fishwrapper indeed.

  • Kevin Francke (unverified)

    Indeed, fishwrapper.

  • JohnnyRedman (unverified)

    "Sid Leader,"

    The scary thing is, ...

    [Off-topic namecalling deleted. -Ed.]

  • mm (unverified)

    I think that it's far more important to know who set Michael Francke's murder into motion than it is to know the identity of the individual who actually committed the act. I am reasonally convinced (through corrections connections similar to those of "cc" except I was an adult at the time of the murder) that that individual is already dead.

    Re-reading some of the news reports from last year, as well as the piece that KATU did at the time, unearths some interesting names that many have forgotten. Scott MacAllister is one name that comes to mind. All the governor's men? Scary.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    Heya Johnny Redman! If you have something to say to me, email me sweetie. Thanks!

  • ripper (unverified)

    is there a connection in the murder coverup between Scott McAlister and then Gov. Neil Goldschmidt? Did McAlister have the goods on the Gov. back then (re: his sex with minor)? Maybe McAlister had the dirt on people allowing the cover up. Just a thought

in the news 2005

connect with blueoregon