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Did DOC Employees Murder Michael Franke?

On the evening of January 17, 1989, Oregon Department of Corrections Director Michael Francke left his office at the Dome Building in Salem. He never made it out of the parking lot. Someone had stabbed him in the heart. He died on his office building's side porch.

The initial investigation of Francke's death centered on parolees in the area and prisoners in the state penitentiary who may have held a grudge of some sort. Then, about a month after the murder, rumors and reports began to surface about corruption within the Oregon Department of Corrections, and the agency's possible link to Francke's death.

Many of the allegations were first made in a Portland newspaper, The Oregonian, where a columnist started asking a lot of questions about the police investigation of the murder. The first article quoted Patrick Francke, Michael's brother: "You want to know what I think? I think he discovered something within the (Oregon) system ... something that he was getting ready to turn over."

In the next year the columnist published 50 articles dealing with Francke's murder and the Department of Corrections. Other papers, like the Salem Stateman Journal and Willamette Week, also started following the story more closely. Interviews with Michael's other brother, Kevin Francke, indicated that the director had told him of an "organized criminal element" within his department.

The media and public soon began to speculate and criticize the police for not focusing intently enough on possible ties between alleged corruption within DOC and the murder.

There was little response to these complaints until September 1989, when Oregon Governor Goldschmidt announced he had appointed retired judge John C. Warden to head an independent investigation of DOC.

Warden's investigation lasted three months. His findings, according to the final report, confirmed the existence of "significant illegal activities or other wrongdoings" within DOC, but he found no "reasonable" link between those activities and Francke's death.

Many Oregonians still have questions about what Francke could have meant when he told his brother of an "organized criminal element" and about his yet unsolved murder. The police investigation is continuing.

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