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Conspiracy theories raised in Gable appeal

Photo Credit: COURTESY MICHAEL FRANKE FAMILY - Timothy Natividad in an undated photoThe 1989 murder of the Oregon Department of Corrections Director Michael Francke is the state’s version of the Kennedy assassination.

Since the case officially was closed with the conviction of petty Salem criminal Frank Gable in 1991, the number of alternative suspects and conspiracy theories has multiplied. Although a Marion County jury decided Gable stabbed Francke to death during a botched car robbery outside the corrections headquarters, some now swear Gable was not the lone knifeman.

The most recent person to officially go on record is Gregory Allen Kellcy, a career criminal now serving time for robbery. He has signed an affidavit suggesting that a Salem drug dealer named Timothy Natividad was paid to kill Francke by corrupt corrections officials. Kellcy’s affidavit is included in the appeal recently filed on Gable’s behalf by the Federal Public Defender’s Office in the U.S. District Court in Oregon.

In his affidavit, Kellcy says he drove Natividad to the corrections headquarters on Jan. 17, 1989, the night of the killing. Kellcy says he dropped Natividad off and picked him up in the area about an hour later. When Natividad got back in the car, Kellcy said he appeared shaken and had blood on his clothes. When Kellcy asked Natividad what happened, Natividad told him to keep his mouth shut or they could both be dead.

Kellcy also swears that a few days later, Natividad asked to be taken to receive a payoff. Kellcy says Natividad did not say what the payoff was for, but asked him to bring a gun. Kellcy says he agreed and saw Natividad receive an envelope from men in a car with official Oregon government license plates. In the affidavit, Kellcy says the envelope contained $20,000. Kellcy also says one of the men in the car was Hoyt Cupp, the warden of the Oregon State Penitentiary, who has since died.

Kellcy’s story sounds fantastic, but it is not the first time he has blown the whistle on corruption in the state prison system. In 1986, his last name was Johnson and he was one of the informants who triggered an Oregon State Police investigation into corruption at the penitentiary and its Farm Annex in Tillamook. A report commissioned after Francke’s death concluded the investigation uncovered evidence of crimes committed by corrections officials, but did not root out all of them.

Even more remarkably, Francke personally met with Kellcy to discuss the investigation before he was killed. In his affidavit, Kellcy said he had no idea Natividad intended to kill Francke, but had known Natividad for years and often acted as an enforcer for him on drug deals.

Natividad was shot and killed by his wife during a domestic fight two weeks after the killing.

Others name Natividad

Three other affidavits filed with the appeal link Natividad to the killing.

One was signed by his ex-wife, Elizabeth Godlove. It says that Natividad came home at 3 a.m. on a night in mid-January 1989 with wounds to his leg and head. He explained them by saying he had been in a fight. A couple days later, in the course of threatening Godlove, Natividad said that he had killed a man.

A short time after that, Natividad showed Godlove a large sum of money and told her he wanted to take a trip to Hawaii or move away from Salem.

According to Godlove, after the Francke killing, Natividad began acting more paranoid and violent and took knives to his brother to have them cleaned and sold. Godlove’s sister confirmed that Godlove told her family that Natividad had come into a large amount of money and wanted to take her and their son out of Oregon.

Affidavits also were signed by two of Natividad’s friends, Vince Taylor and Wayne Alvis. Both said Natividad was dealing drugs in the prison system prior to the killing and made statements indicating Natividad intended to kill a high-ranking corrections official. Taylor says Natividad told him that he intended to “take care of someone” who was learning too much about what was going on.

Alvis said that a few days before the killing, Natividad said he planned on “taking care of business” at the corrections headquarters by “tak[ing] out” a “big guy” who posed a threat to “Tim and his.” When he heard the news about Francke’s death, Alvis says he assumed Natividad had killed him.

According to the appeal, rumors about Natividad’s involvement in the killing surfaced before the start of Gable’s trial in May 1991. In June 1989, an inmate told state investigators that Natividad attempted to hire him in late 1988 to kill someone in “corrections,” but he declined. The story was confirmed by the inmate’s wife.

In the fall of 1990, Godlove told Gable’s defense attorneys that she believed Natividad was involved in the murder. State investigators confirmed the statement and interviewed Natividad’s family, who provided access to his clothing and numerous knives.

A short time later, defense attorneys sought discovery regarding Natividad, citing due process. The trial court denied the request. The state later moved to exclude evidence related to third-party guilt, including evidence related to Natividad. The defense never sought to introduce any evidence regarding Natividad during the trial.

Gable was convicted of killing Francke at the end of the trial in June 1991 and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The appeal asks that Gable either be granted a new trial or be made eligible for parole. The Oregon Department of Justice is preparing its response to the appeal.

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