Friday, August 10, 2012

Donovan Franks

Shoe Print
Portland, Oregon, like so many other cities throughout the world, has been plagued by serious crime in recent months, particu­larly murder. It is an- interesting, though distressing, fact that for the first six months of 1981 Portland ranked fourth in the nation for serious crimes among the 50 largest cities in the coun­try, trailing only Miami, Atlanta, and Oakland. And now, as of this writing, Portland leads the nation in the overall increase of violent crime.
According to statistics released by the Portland Police Bureau, 66 crimes were committed per 1,000 residents during the first six months of 1981, a stagger­ing figure that is difficult for most Port­land citizens and city officials to deal with. The afternoon of June 2nd was to be no exception, with two additional murders to be added to the city’s growing homicide list.
The story opens at the Allmon resi­dence, located in the 2400 block of Southeast 79th Avenue, with the sud­den mysterious disappearance of lovely Mary Ann Allmon, 32, and her cute 5-­year-old son, Ryan Lee. It has been es­tablished that the two were last seen by a former neighbor and babysitter about one p.m. in front of their house as they were preparing to wash the family’s white sports car, a chore they were not allowed to complete.
Suspicions of foul play did not arise until later that Tuesday evening, how­ever, when Mary Ann’s husband ar­rived home from work and found the garage door open, the white sports car missing, and the front door to his home wide open.
Once inside the house he made a fran­tic search of every room, calling out his wife’s and son’s names at every turn. But there were no replies, and there wasn’t even a note saying they would return shortly (he hadn’t really ex­pected to find a note for, he reasoned, if his wife and son had left willingly, they would surely have locked up the house). Shaking with fear and shock, Mary Ann’s husband called the Portland Police Bureau and reported his wife and son as missing. Normally, a person has to be missing for 72 hours or longer be­fore a report is filed, but due to the mys­terious circumstances, not to mention the evidence of obvious foul play, the missing person report was accepted by police. Officers were immediately dis­patched to the Allmon home to investi­gate.
The distraught husband told the of­ficers that he had called home about noon and talked with his wife, and that he called back about an hour later but received no answer. He told the cops that Tuesday was his wife’s regular day off from her job at a southwest Portland Safeway food store where she worked as a clerk, and that she planned to use the day to catch up on household chores. But when he arrived home, the wife and son that he loved so dearly were nowhere to be found.
As his statements were being taken, other officers began contacting every known friend Mary Ann had, but appa­rently no one had seen her or the boy. When they contacted the Allmon’s babysitter, however, they were in­formed that Mrs. Allmon and her son were in front of their house at approxi­mately 1:30 p.m.
“She was out near her car,” said Diana Stevenson, the babysitter. “It looked like she was getting ready to wash it.” Later that same afternoon, Diana told police, she drove by the Allmon’s house and saw the garage door open, as well as the front door to the house. “It’s not like her to leave the house open.” As sketchy as it was, officers took down the data about the missing mother and son, thus marking the beginning of an intensive, hard-driving investigation that would ultimately lead police from the state’s northern border to its southernmost line.
Following the filing of the missing person report, the night passed slowly for Mrs. Allmon’s distressed husband as he made countless attempts to locate his wife and son. But his efforts ended in failure and frustration despite his high hopes that he would see his wife and child again, alive.
In the meantime, crime experts re­mained at the Allmon home late into the night processing it for clues, but turned up nothing useful. Earlier in the evening an all-points bulletin was is­sued concerning the missing white sports car, but again the investigators obtained zero results. It seemed as if the woman and child had vanished from the face of the earth.
Early the next morning, however, Lt. Paul Lovejoy of the Oregon State Police office in Bend reported that a state trooper, who only just learned of the disappearances, recalled seeing a white sports car parked off U.S. Highway 97 about a mile or so south of Lava Butte at approximately 5 p.m. the day before, nearly 150 miles southeast of Portland.
As a result, police immediately launched a massive search of the area that same morning, covering the thick, brushy terrain by foot. As the hunt con­tinued, every patch of ground was gone over again and again, but to no avail. Hours passed with no results and the starch was, in fact, beginning to look hopeless.
But suddenly, at approximately 11 a.m. and only moments before the search was to be called off, two volun­teers nearly stumbled over the bodies of a woman and a little boy lying face down near a thicket of brush and thorns. Shocked and horrified, neither man touched the bodies, but instead rushed off for assistance.
It was a gruesome sight, an execution-type killing, officers specu­lated, and it was presumed that the victims pleaded for their lives after being made to life face down in front of their killer, only moments before being shot in the backs of their heads.
The misery of waiting and the an­guish created by not knowing the fate of his beloved wife and son was finally over for the distraught husband in Port­land. Only sorrow and grief filled his lonely mind when law enforcement offi­cials informed him that the victims found shot to death at Lava Butte were none other than Mary Ann and Ryan Lee Allmon.
At the crime site, officials followed proper procedures, not allowing the bodies to be moved from the area until the experts from the state labs and the medical examiner’s office arrived.
As additional emergency vehicles began to arrive, so did curious passerby. It wasn’t long before a small crowd had gathered, much as they would at the scene of an automobile accident. But police barriers were soon put into place to ensure preservation of any evi­dence that might be present and, disap­pointed that they couldn’t get a closer look, the crowd began to disperse almost as rapidly as it had gathered.
It wasn’t long before a man from the Deschutes County medical examiner’s office arrived on the scene, as did vans carrying photographers and specialists from the Oregon State Police Crime Labs. They quickly unloaded the tools of their trade, which included cameras, tripods, floodlights, evidence bags, and other miscellaneous equipment necessary for the completion of their specialized tasks.
But before the criminalists were al­lowed to begin performing their various duties, the scene had to be photographed. As Deschutes County detectives confer­red with the officers that were first on the scene, a police photographer began taking pictures of the victims. Not mis­sing a single detail, he took several shots of the victims from various angles, and then concentrated his efforts on the sur­rounding area for possible later study. And as an added precaution, a police artist made a sketch of the position of the bodies in relation to the surround­ing area just in case the photos turned out damaged or defective.
It didn’t take long for the man from the medical examiner’s office to con­clude that the victims died as a result of single gunshot wounds to the head, but as a matter of routine in a homicide investigation of this nature the bodies would have to be removed to Portland where they would be examined by Dr. Larry Lewman, deputy state medical examiner: After recording the victim’s body temperatures and general obser­vations made at the scene, the medical examiner turned the bodies over to de­tectives.
As they went about their tasks, the detectives began taking detailed notes of their observations. They noted the position of the victims’ bodies on the ground, the fact that there were only entrance wounds to the back side of the victims’ heads and no exit holes, and they noted the size and location of the bloodstains. They also entered into their notebooks the fact that no weapon was present.
Knowing that they were their own worst enemies, at least as far as con­taminating a crime site was concerned, the detectives had to be able to account for every item they touched for future elimination of clothing fibers, hair, or even fingerprints. They also had to re­member every place they walked so they could later distinguish their own footprints from those of a possible sus­pect.
In search of clues, the sleuths sifted the ground near the bodies for such aforementioned items as hair or bits of clothing fiber. Although such items were not present, the criminalists did find, after much searching, two spent bullet cartridges which they believed once housed .38-caliber slugs, thus prompting them to theorize’ that the victims were indeed cruelly killed at the spot where their bodies were found.
Near the area where the bodies were discovered, police found an interesting set of footprints. There were impres­sions alongside the tracks which police believed were made by a walking-cane or stick, a vital clue if only they could connect it with a suspect.
Was their man a cripple? They won­dered. Or had he been in a recent acci­dent that could be confirmed by a doctor or a hospital? The details were circu­lated to various police agencies around the state, but it was doubtful they would turn up anything useful from such sketchy information. Nonetheless, the police reasoned that those clues were better than none at all. They realized that little else could be done at this point, and the bodies of Mary Ann Allmon and Ryan Lee Allmon were re­moved from the brushy area to a wait­ing van and sent to Portland, where the autopsies would be performed.
In the meantime, Portland homicide detectives made door-to-door inquiries of the Allmons’ neighbors in an attempt to obtain some useful leads that would put them on the trail of the murderer. Although the neighbors were all very cooperative, they were able to offer little information that the investigators could use.
Following the completion of the autopsies, Dr. Lewman confirmed that each victim died as a result of one gunshot wound to the back of the head, and re­ported that he recovered two .38-caliber slugs, which he turned over to the Ore­gon State Police Crime Labs for study. He said the victims had been dead for a relatively short time when their bodies were discovered, possibly only 24 hours, an estimate he arrived at by observing the extent of the changes that had oc­curred since death and by noting that rigor mortis was not yet at a severe stage of advancement. He said the vic­tims had suffered no other significant injuries.
News of the tragic deaths traveled quickly, and friends and relatives of the Allmon family were deeply shocked and saddened by the double murders. Their former baby-sitter expressed her feel­ings publicly.
“She was always happy and cheerful,” said Diana Stevenson. “It’s hard to be­lieve it when you know someone so well and it happens right here practically in front of your eyes, to one of your good neighbors.”
Meanwhile, concerned citizens began forming neighborhood protection groups in an attempt to increase public awareness about the seriousness of the increase in violent crime in Portland, particularly since the Allmon murders and other recent homicides in the area. Among those voicing their concern was Portland Police Chief Ronald Still, former police ‘chief Bruce Baker, and Portland Mayor Frank Ivancie.
“I believe that we have to balance the tremendous increase of major crime and problems in the street,” said Still. “It’s important that we communicate. But we just can’t continue talking all the time. We have to do something. We have a crisis in crime in Portland, and the main reason is the lack of jail space. Rather than hide the statistics, we want to put the information out to alert the public.” Those statistics Chief Still re­ferred to indicated that Portland led the rest of the country with a 24 percent increase in the number of violent crimes reported for 1981.
Former Chief Baker had some thoughts concerning the problem of crime and handguns before he left of­fice. He contended that the current gun registration laws do no good, and that the registration should serve only as a means of returning a stolen gun to the owner.
“Registration in no way prevents crime” Baker said. He further stated that he had heard estimates that there are 47 to 50 million handguns in America, and said that anyone who thinks there’s an overnight cure for the occurrence of violent crime is not being realistic.
“I don’t think any law would abolish ownership of handguns, even if the law were proven to be constitutionally sound,” he said. “It’s the American way to propose instant solutions, but there aren’t any.” Instead, Baker proposes that the manufacture and importation of handguns be immediately halted ex­cept, of course, for the military and the police.
“What would happen to the fifty mill­ion guns? They would gradually disap­pear. I don’t see another solution. Guns or no guns, we can’t handle the criminals now,” said Baker, obviously refer­ring to the problem of a lack of jail space.
Baker and Still were not the only offi­cials speaking out on the lack of jail space in Oregon. According to Portland Mayor Frank Ivancie, the main reason that Portland has a higher per capita crime rate than New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia is because of insuffi­cient “regional” jail space.
“Arresting people is no problem,” said Ivancie at a news conference. “But these people are back on the streets as soon as we arrest them. The (jail) space problem is critical, and is the biggest problem we’ve had. This is a situation we’re look­ing into with concern. We are suffering from somewhat of a crime wave because of the early release of prisoners and the lack of prison space.
“When Chief Still and I proposed our crime program,” he continued, “we tried to convey as much urgency about Portland’s crime crisis as we could. Lit­tle did we know we were understating our case. I hate to see a worsening of Portland’s reputation as a playground for criminals. It’s a black eye for our livability. It stifles our efforts to attack economic development. Who wants to move a family or business into an as­phalt jungle?”
In the meantime, a statewide drive to reinstate the death penalty in Oregon got underway, but with mixed feelings. If the attempts are successful, however, measures will appear on the ballots for voters to make a decision on in November, 1982. Oregon has not had a death penalty since January, 1981, when the state supreme court ruled it was unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, police continued their investigation into the double execution-style murders of Mary Ann Allmon and her son, but with few sig­nificant results. They theorized that the mother and son were abducted from their home between 1:30 and 2 p.m. by an unknown gunman, and then were driven to the area known as Lava Butte where they were murdered at approxi­mately 5 p.m.
But why were they abducted in the first place? The cops wondered. Was it merely for the sports car? More impor­tantly, why were they murdered? Neither the mother nor the child had been sexually assaulted, and as far as the cops could tell they weren’t robbed of any money; the only things taken were their lives and their car. But why? It all seemed so senseless.
In an unexpected turn of events after reading news reports of the two mur­ders, two Oregon State Police officers reported stopping a white sports car for speeding as it headed south on U.S. 97 near Gilchrist in central Oregon at ap­proximately 7:20 p.m. on the evening of the murders. The driver, Donovan Dean Franks, 45, was cited and released as he was not wanted by police, and the offic­ers didn’t know if he was driving the stolen vehicle or not because the APB on the Allmon’s white sports car had not yet been issued at the time the citation given to Franks, they discovered that he was indeed driving the Allmon’s stolen car.
At this point, police began to zero in on Franks as the likely suspect, and notified police agencies throughout the state to be on the lookout for him and the car. In addition, authorities in California were notified that the sus­pect was heading south, and as an added precaution authorities in eastern Ore­gon and Idaho were given the details in case he changed direction and headed south. Portland detectives were not­ified that Franks was a possible suspect, and upon checking him out through the Department of Motor Vehicles, soon discovered that he lived in the 2700 block of Southeast 79th Avenue, barely two blocks from the Allmons’ residence.
Detectives then contacted one of Franks’ neighbors, Penny Sue Martin, who told the cops that he had been in a recent auto accident. She said she often saw him exercise by walking down the street with the aid of a cane: She also informed the lawmen that he lived with his mother.
Meanwhile, back in southern Oregon, state police Trooper Brad Smith stopped a white sports car in Klamath Falls and ordered the driver out of the vehicle. As he attempted to arrest the driver for drunken driving, the man pointed a handgun at the officer.
Smith tried to reason with the man, but to no avail. When he saw his chance, though, Smith lunged at the gunman, pushing him to the ground. The two men struggled violently with each other, and Smith eventually was able to disarm the man by knocking the gun from his hand. As he struggled to gain control over the drunken, crazed man, Smith attempted to flag down numer­ous passing motorists for help. But they continued to pass right on by, appa­rently apathetic towards the cop’s near desperate situation.
The struggle went on for some time, with Smith apparently unable to singly subdue the crazed man. Fortunately for Smith, however, all of the passing motorists weren’t indifferent to the state trooper’s situation, for about 10 minutes later a Klamath County sheriff’s deputy arrived after being cal­led and helped Smith arrest the drun­ken suspect.
A short time later, they identified the drunk as Donovan Dean Franks, and confirmed that he had, in fact, been driving the Allmons’ stolen sports car.
Franks was charged with the attemp­ted murder of Trooper Smith, as well as unauthorized use of motor vehicle and drunk driving, and was held in the Klamath County Jail with bail set at $165,310. However, according to De­schutes County District Attorney Louis Sleken, no charges were filed against Franks for the deaths of Mary Ann Allmon and her son. Sleken said he was waiting for reports from the various police agencies involved in the investi­gation.
Digging still deeper into Franks’ background, detectives discovered that the suspect had a history of brain surgery dating back 13 years, according to a Portland physician. The detectives also uncovered information about a re­cent auto accident Franks had been in­volved in, shedding some light as to why he walked with a cane.
“Franks was admitted to Pacific Communities Hospital (in Newport, Oregon) recently after an automobile accident,” said Tom Benton, hospital spokesman. “At the time he was treated for fractures of the right knee and left leg and for facial lacerations.” With this new information, the cops had all the more reason to suspect that Franks was present at the crime scene, where evi­dence was found indicating that some­one who used a cane to walk with had been there.
Franks’ weapon was soon identified as a .38-caliber automatic pistol, the same type that detectives alleged fired the fatal slugs into the two victims. But they couldn’t be absolutely certain that it was the murder weapon until the bar­rel riflings were checked against the two recovered slugs.
At the Oregon State Police Crime Labs in Portland, a test bullet was fired from Franks’ pistol into a large slab of wax, a procedure used to prevent damaging the bullets’ markings. When a gun is made, rifling tools used in its manufacture leave tiny, unusual marks or scars, and the test bullet can be com­pared with the bullets recovered from the victims’ bodies to determine if the markings are identical. This procedure is often erroneously referred to as “bal­listics,” which, in reality, is merely the science relating to the motion and direc­tion, among other-general characteris­tics, of the fired bullets. Correctly speaking, the identification of weapons by making rifling comparisons is simply called “firearms examination.”
To complete the examination, a crime lab technician took the test bullet and placed it alongside the suspected lethal bullets under a comparison microscope and, in hardly any time at all, he had determined that the slugs had, in fact, been fired from the same weapon that police had seized from Franks.
With this latest development, Dono­van Dean Franks was charged in De­schutes County Circuit Court with dual counts of intentional murder, felony murder, and kidnapping in the abduction and deaths of Mary Ann Allmon and Ryan Lee Allmon. Shortly afterward, a grand jury handed down murder and kidnapping indictments against Franks who, according to Mike Dugan, chief deputy district attorney, was still being held in Klamath Falls waiting trans­fer to Deschutes County. Dugan said that no indication of motive had been found in the two deaths.
As soon as manpower was available, Franks was transferred to Deschutes County, where he was arraigned on the charges in District Court. Judge Ed­ward Perkins appointed attorney Tom Howes to represent Franks. Howes said that he planned to contend that Franks was innocent by reason of mental dis­ease or defect as a result of “extreme emotional stress” at the time the mur­ders were committed. Howes then re­quested that the arraignment be moved to Deschutes County Circuit Court, which was granted.
However, Franks refused to enter a plea before Circuit Court Judge Walter Edmonds. But the judge allowed the suspect 20 days to enter a plea just the same, and also cautioned the district at­torney and police not to talk to the news media about the case.
“My client does not want to speak to anyone,” Howes told the judge, “and re­vokes any previous statements on his medical record, and any permission granted for anyone to talk to him.”
As time moved forward, Franks was examined by a psychiatrist at the re­quest of his attorney, but the results of the examination were not made public. At the urging of his attorney, though, Franks pleaded innocent by reason of mental disease or defect, Oregon’s equi­valent of an insanity plea. No trial date was set at that time.
However, on Wednesday, October 7th, one week before Frank’s trial was finally set to begin, his attorney made a surprise move when he contacted the district attorney’s office and asked for a Circuit Court hearing. At the hearing, Tom Howes said he was experiencing problems with Franks in how the case should be handled. He told the judge that, against his advice, Franks wished to enter a plea of no contest.
Circuit Judge John M. Copenhaver questioned Franks intensively as the defendant stood passively before him, answering each query unemotion­ally. Franks stated that he was pleased with his attorney, and that he did not wish to seek counsel. He further stated that he knew his plea could possibly bring about the maximum sentence possible.
When the judge reminded Franks that if he declined a defense claiming “extreme emotional stress,” he would not be able to use that plea at a later date.
“I just want to get it over with,” Franks told the judge, at the same time waiving his right to a pre-sentence in­vestigation and a 48-hour delay before sentencing.
Commenting on Franks’ obvious pas­sivity, the judge asked, “Are you taking any medication?”
“Yes. I’m on tranquilizers,” Franks told the judge. His attorney then stated that he had never interviewed his client when he wasn’t on tranquilizers.
Judge Copenhaver then sentenced Franks to two consecutive life terms on the two charges of intentional murder, imposing a five-year minimum sen­tence in the death of Mrs. Allmon be­cause of the use of a gun in the murder. A 10-year minimum sentence was im­posed in the death of Ryan Lee Allmon because of the boy’s age and a “lack of remorse” on the part of the defendant. However, actual time served will be de­termined by the state parole board.
“We were surprised by this hearing,” said District Attorney Louis Sleken after the sentencing. He also stated that he had never seen a man accused of such serious charges appear so passive and stoical while being sentenced. He expressed satisfaction that the county had saved from $25,000 to $30,000 in court costs as a result of the plea bargain.
“We were prepared to go to trial next week,” he said. “But I feel we would have gotten the same verdict. I am satis­fied that justice has been done.”
Editor’s Note:
Diana Stevenson, Penny Sue Mar­tin, and Tom Benton are not the real names of the persons so named in the foregoing story. Fictitious names have been used because there is no reason for public interest in the iden­tities of these persons.

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