Letter from another world
- Phil Stanford
- Portland Tribune - News
The following is condensed from several letters sent to me in the last year by a federal prison inmate.
I was born in Lemmon, South Dakota, part Indian, part French. But I am 100 percent Indian in my heart.
My father was a truck driver. He died of throat cancer when I was 8 years. My mother was an alcoholic her whole life. I can remember them dragging us kids to bars daily.
After my dad died, my mom was never really home, always at the bars. My sister basically cared for us. We cooked our own food, hardly ever went to school.
I was 16 years old when we got talked into moving to Oregon Ñ Coos Bay. They promised good jobs in the lumber mills, and nothing was true. I started drinking and smoking pot nonstop and hooked up with the wrong crowd.
Before long I was doing crimes I'd never thought of before. I ended up doing a robbery and going to OSCI in Salem. Then I got out, and the real trouble began.
• • •
1989 rolls around. Les calls the police about Janyne and me taking his car from Coos Bay to Salem. Janyne was my wife then. We got busted and put in Marion County Jail.
That's when they first talked to me about the (Michael) Francke murder. I told them I was home. There was a drug deal going down that night.
That's what I was doing the night of the murder, Jan. 17, 1989. The reason I know is that the landlady thought we were having a loud party that night and served us an eviction notice the next day.
Anyway, that was it, a short five-minute visit by one detective. I got out of jail, went back to Coos Bay, and they called the first week in September and asked if I'd take a polygraph.
I'm thinking, 'You had nothing to do with this, you have nothing to hide. What could it hurt to help them eliminate me É ?'
This is where it turns bad fast. The guy says, 'I think you're lying. You know where the knife is.' I flip out and tell him he's full of it.
But here's the kicker. At the same time I'm taking a polygraph test, Janyne, who I'm not getting along with at the time, is in another room telling them all kinds of crazy stuff. That's how they came up with their whole murder story.
By the time they finish with her, she would have told them I was a pimp with a pink Caddie if they'd wanted her to. Same thing with all the other tweakers they got to testify against me.
Then I go to trial, and my lawyer won't let me take the stand and say where I was that night. Of course they convicted me.
• • •
There was a time, not too long ago, when I totally lost hope. I went off the deep end after post-conviction. I was drinking more alcohol than you could ever imagine in prison. I was trafficking drugs on a large scale.
But thank God, I finally pulled myself out of it. I've stayed clean and sober, and life is better than ever. I'm done with all the madness in my life. I go to church. I witness to younger guys and study a lot.
I will not let you and Kevin down, Phil. I will make you all proud and glad you believed in me and fought to help me. After 15 years, could this truly be the end of this insane nightmare?
Frank Gable is serving a life sentence in Florida for the murder of state Corrections Director Michael Francke. Kevin Francke, his brother, does not believe Gable is the killer.