Murder in Oregon is a true crime podcast examining the suspicious circumstances that surround the 1989 murder of Michael Francke, who at the time was the director of Oregon’s Corrections Department and, according to his brothers and his co-workers, was onto something big. Michael had been hired to look into the “rampant corruption” within Corrections, and realized that the corruption went all the way to the top. But the night before he was to testify about some evidence he’d uncovered, he was found stabbed in the heart outside his office building. Authorities were quick to chalk it up to a simple robbery gone bad, but Michael’s brothers, Pat and Kevin, never bought that story, and neither did journalist Phil Stanford. These men, along with host Lauren Bright Pacheco, are determined to find out the truth. On this episode, they discuss the many discrepancies in the investigation of Michael’s death that first got their attention, and keep them questioning the official story to this day.
Things were strange from the start. When Kevin got the call that his brother had been killed, deputy director Dick Peterson told him that Michael had been shot, not stabbed. They also found out that when the department’s director of finance, Dave Caulley, was told that Michael was missing and his car door had been left open, he didn’t go looking for Michael. Instead, he went to his own office and called Dick. Why didn’t he start a search? “His explanation to the police shortly afterwards was that he was afraid...that Michael Francke had committed suicide,” Phil says. Kevin thinks the murderer was supposed to have made Michael’s death look like a suicide; that perhaps when Dick called him, he hadn’t even seen Michael’s body yet, only expecting him to have been shot.
But why would these guys go after their boss? Well, the Oregon Corrections Department was something of a club of “good old boys” who took care of each other; they wouldn’t have appreciated any shake-ups or changes Michael made. But a shake-up had already happened. Scott McAllister, the assistant attorney general, had been forced to resign; Dick and Dave were also due to be replaced. “He had to clean house,” Kevin remembers. “I mean, he had to start surrounding himself with people he could trust.”
That’s because Michael was working to uncover the corruption in the department that included letting inmates out for weeks at a time, allowing them to return to jail with drugs and weapons; insurance fraud and cattle theft; and unlawfully giving free inmate labor to contractors. During his investigation, he was increasingly afraid for his life, insisting on carrying a gun everywhere he went. After his death, Pat and Kevin both mentioned their concerns to state police that Michael was targeted due to this work; but to their dismay, “not only would state police officer, Loren Glover, and then-district attorney, Dale Penn, deny Mike Francke was even investigating corruption,” Lauren tells us, “they'd claim his family never mentioned it.” Gallingly, Glover’s own notes proved that within 48 hours, the entire family had expressed concerns that his death was related to the investigation.
On top of this, other mistakes were made: Elyse Clawson, Michael’s assistant director, had been in his car earlier in the day, so she asked investigators to take her fingerprints, but they neglected to do so. They also failed to establish a time of death. Though they maintained that Michael had been stabbed at his car, “not even one drop of blood” was found there. Even more telling, while the “robbers” left Michael’s watch and wallet, they did take his briefcase, full of floppy disks of evidence for his testimony to the state legislature.
Other mysteries frustrated the Franckes: men who were seen in the building the night of Michael’s murder, but never identified; the blood spatter analysis; and “23 trash bags” full of documents, shredded the day after Michael’s death, would raise questions the official story couldn’t explain away. Join Lauren, Phil, Kevin, and Pat as they struggle to find out: Was Michael Francke killed to keep a lid on the unrelieved corruption in the Corrections Department? Listen to this episode of Murder In Oregon to find out more.
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