Fifteen years ago, Michael Francke's murder seized the state's imagination--and the intrigue did not end even after a Salem drug dealer was convicted of killing Oregon's top prison official. Prosecutors convinced jurors that Frank Gable fatally stabbed the director of Oregon Department of Corrections during a botched car burglary--a story many doubted, given Francke's quiet crusade against corruption in the department.
Now the old case is heating up thanks to a document that never surfaced in the trial of Francke's murderer or his subsequent appeal. It was discovered not by a zealous defense lawyer but by the dead man's brother, who found it last month in an old box of evidence.
"I stuck my fingers in there and started pulling things out," says Kevin Francke, "and there it was."
The "it" Francke is referring to is a sworn statement made in 1990 by a former secretary and girlfriend of Scott McAlister, a former Oregon assistant attorney general who some felt really ran the state Department of Corrections before Francke got there.
In her statement, reported earlier this week by KATU-TV and the Portland Tribune, Linda S. Parker says that in July 1989 she was with McAlister at a party in Utah, where she worked for him in his new job: Inspector General for the Utah Department of Corrections.
At the party, McAlister was joined by Oregon friends who'd followed him to work in the Utah prison system. Parker claims McAlister was trash-talking Francke and saying the people who had killed him were supposed to make it look like a suicide.
"Scott was clearly angry over the job being 'fucked up,' as he put it," said Parker, adding that she believed McAlister knew "inside information about what happened in the Francke murder."
McAlister, contacted by WW at his law office in Tempe, Ariz., called Parker a "documented liar" and said there was no truth to her statement. "The whole suggestion is absurd," he said. "Michael Francke was a friend of mine."
Actually, when Francke was murdered, many considered McAlister a potential suspect. Documents and interviews indicate that Francke vastly cut McAlister's power in the prisons, and he wasn't happy about it. The lawyer resigned effective Jan. 9, eight days before Francke's murder.
"Scott told me, 'If Mike ever leaves, I'll come back to Oregon,'" one prison official, Steven Gassner, told a defense investigator in the Gable case.
But Dale Penn, the former Marion County district attorney who prosecuted Gable, told WW he remains convinced the murder was a meaningless crime gone bad--that Francke confronted Gable in the middle of burglarizing his car. "There was never any admissible evidence tying Scott McAlister to the murder of Michael Francke," Penn says.
McAlister, for his part, referred WW to Parker's ex-husband, Jim Dreitzler, who traded information with McAlister in during Dreitzler's messy custody battle--and who also questioned Parker's credibility to WW, citing mental issues. Parker attempted suicide in late 1989, and was hospitalized and diagnosed with major depression.
Parker's statement, however, makes several other allegations about McAlister that have been substantiated elsewhere. For instance, Parker accused McAlister of using his position to pressure her into "group sex" and of giving her kiddie porn videos to "train" her. The two videotapes she turned over were traced by law enforcement to McAlister, causing him to be charged with a child-pornography felony (he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor).
In addition, a second Utah corrections employee came forward saying McAlister also tried to pressure her into group sex, causing him to be forced out of his Utah job. Parker's sexual-harassment lawsuit against the state secured a $95,000 settlement.
Salt Lake Tribune reporter Chris Smart investigated many of Parker's allegations at the time--including that McAlister manipulated disciplinary cases inside the prison to benefit friends and hurt enemies. "Everything she told me panned out," Smart told WW.
Parker's statement, which was never investigated by police, doesn't clear Gable. But it could help his case should he get a new trial. Gable lost one appeal in 2001, but Portland lawyer David Celuch took over the case and is now appealing that decision. He declined to comment, but his predecessor, Ken Hadley, says, "We have high hopes."
The theory that McAlister had a role in the murder was rejected in Gable's earlier appeal, but Kevin Francke is convinced: "In terms of veracity and credibility, I'd put Linda Parker up against Scott McAlister any day of the week."