The death of a good man. It is romantic, in a literary sense. The high drama, the bitter ending, and a reminder. Conspiracy, corruption, and the twisted murder that can come with it does not belong outside of reality. We believe in these stories when they are saturated in the opulence of the past- when world leaders had divine power and titles like Czar. A place where deaths of good men trying to do good things are not so close, not so tangible.
The reality is that it still exists with less obvious grandeur, and a lot more predetermined illegal activity. This case, this story, is about the deaths of two men. One life ended, and one destroyed almost beyond repair. All at the hands of people deep within the corrections system of Oregon, standing up to “protect and defend” our society. When in reality, the connections created a seemingly air-tight ring of loyalty to a different cause of drugs and money.
This is a case that should have been solved, that 30 years ago could have been solved. Now, because of the inevitability of time- it most likely can never be solved. We may never truly know who killed Michael Francke, or the entirety of the team that caused Frank Gable to be wrongfully convicted for the murder.
iHeart Radio’s Murder in Oregon takes us through the details of this murder with grace and ease. The storytelling emits the poise and personality of a well produced documentary. Added are snippets of comfortable, conversational interview. You don’t want to stop taking it in. With every episode you want to learn more and at twelve forty five or so minute episodes- you can with relative speed. It finished releasing episodes January 9th, 2020. So it’s relatively fresh, and ready for discussion.
It is easy to follow, despite the whirlwind of names and details this thirty year old maze entails. Gentle guiding reminders glide through the voice of our host, Lauren Bright Pacheco. You aren’t expected to remember everything, and unless you’re sitting here listening to this podcast in a day- you can’t. There’s a lot to remember and a lot to process. I don’t believe many people give a second thought to corrections until a convict escapes. We hear more about dirty cops. Yet here we have in Oregon a level of corruption that has run so deep that it might never be free to admit to who truly committed this murder.
I highly suggest not bingeing this work in less than a week like I did. Take a few moments between episodes and actually disconnect from what you’re learning. It’s heavy to handle if you’re sensitive to the topics at hand.
While heavy, and despite my warning, it is important to realize that this is a series that is remarkably easy to accidentally binge. One more episode turned into three or four before I had to get away from it. The host, Bright Pacheco has one of the most appropriate true-crime respecting voices I have heard on a podcast. She is calm, clear, and her voice emits a sense of respectful duty to this story. It’s not easy. Details are brought to light about powerful people, those who are supposed to protect and defend, that make stomachs twist and turns. There are conversations of blatant drug use and the sexual exploitation of minors. It is heart-wrenching. Bright Pacheco is truly a voice to be remembered here as the driving voice of this narration.
Bright Pacheco’s voice is contrasted to the voice of Phil Stanford, peppered through the podcast as the center of information. Stanford has been following and pushing for the truth since the initial reporting of “a car robbery gone wrong”. Other voices that come into play frequently are those of Francke’s brothers, Patrick and Kevin. Each texture and personality balances out the narration beautifully, creating an emotional journey of confusion, dismay, and at times despair.
The reporting of this podcast balances out the gritty of reality and necessity of the ugly with grace and poise. I thought the flow of the audio had a chance to fall and fail when I first began the podcast. I only found it enhancing the story more and more. For reference, I like podcasts that make me feel like I’m having coffee with the hosts, not the ones that showcase the production capabilities of those behind the mic. Yet, Murder in Oregon has the refined taste of a documentary, with the approachability of a round table discussion. The variety of real interviews mixed with narration makes it a palate cleanser of a true crime podcast as so many are turning into the round table, over coffee format. Both exist in equal measure in this podcast, and doesn’t make you feel like you have to be an expert at the table- which is relaxing and allows you to feel through the podcast rather than think through the podcast.
Once you start this podcast, you may not be able to stop. At the end, it leaves you with a sense of hope and hopelessness. True human kindness shines through the tragedy of Michael Francke’s death, without a resolution like we have received with other true crime cases. It is frustrating, but worth a listen for those of us who love a good and complex story.