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Jury convicts Phillip for murder of city of Kent employee Frankel; victim's father reacts to verdict
It would be easy to think Richard Frankel might have closure after a jury on Friday convicted William L. Phillip Jr. of first-degree murder for the 2010 stabbing death of his son, Seth Frankel, an Auburn resident and city of Kent employee.
But after sharing hugs and tears with family and friends following the verdict in King County Superior Court, Richard Frankel responded during an interview about whether he feels any closure.
"I don't think there is ever closure," said Frankel, who traveled from his Hawaii home to attend the trial at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. "Most of us don't have very many people in our lives who are so close to us and tell you every time they see you or talk to you 'I love you.' You can't replace that."
Many people have talked to Richard Frankel about closure after the death of his son.
"Donna (Richard's wife) and I have talked about closure an awful lot because we hear that word so often directed to us," he said. "My conclusion is closure is a word that is never used by the victim's family. It's used by other people to indicate that they feel they don't need to discuss it anymore and that they've moved on and they expect you to move on."
Seth Frankel, 41, worked as a video program coordinator for the city of Kent. He was a divorced father of two young girls.
Phillip, 33, of Portland, Ore., is scheduled to be sentenced June 27. He faces a sentence of 20 to 26 years in prison, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
This was a retrial for Phillip with a new jury after jurors in December were unable to reach an unanimous verdict after a six-week trial. Judge Andrea Darvas declared a mistrial in the initial trial. Darvas also oversaw the retrial and will sentence Phillip in June.
Prosecutors Wyman Yip and Patrick Hinds told the jury that Phillip drove from Oregon to Auburn to stab Frankel to death in his home because both were in love with Bonny Johnson and Phillip wanted her back. Johnson tipped off detectives to investigate Phillip.
Auburn Police used cellphone records and DNA evidence to tie Phillip to the killing of Frankel in his home on May 21, 2010.
Defense attorney Anuradha Luthra argued that police arrested the wrong man. She said Phillip had driven to Auburn that day because he liked to take drives to deal with stress and he had recently lost a friend and a relative.
Luthra declined to comment to a reporter as she left the courtroom after the verdict announcement.
Christina Frankel-Barton, Seth Frankel's ex-wife, said the verdict provided some relief but called the four years since the death a "grueling" experience.
"Two lives are wasted, Seth's and this other person's with such a terrible act," she said.
Frankel-Barton said the two young daughters she had with Seth often talk about their dad.
"They're doing OK," she said. "There's moments I see issues from this. But they've got a lot of love around them and have a very big family, so they get a lot of love from a lot of people."
Several of those relatives were at the month-long retrial as well as the six-week trial last year. That group included Seth's mother, Emily Markiewicz, of Virginia, as well as relatives from Canada and Arizona.
Frankel-Barton prefers to recall the great memories about Seth rather than his death.
"Seth used to not eat a lot of sweets but he'd say his dessert is chocolate kisses from the girls," she said. "So he'd give the girls chocolate and then get kisses from them."
On the night before the verdict, one of his daughters had a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
"She came over to me and said, 'Chocolate kiss mom,' and she gave me a chocolate kiss," Frankel-Barton said.
Richard Frankel remembered one of the last times he saw his son came during a hike near Mount Rainier with Seth and his two daughters.
"I have so many memories of camping with him," Richard Frankel said. "He loved the outdoors and I know he got that from me because I love the outdoors. It was really rewarding for me when I saw he was a better outdoorsman than I was."
That love between father and son made the weeks of trials for Richard Frankel even tougher.
"It was a nightmare," he said. "Just to sit through everything and listen to testimony and to look at all of those pictures of Seth."
The evidence included graphic photos of Frankel at his home after the stabbing.
"I don't think anybody could have any idea from reading any newspaper article what a vicious attack it was that killed Seth and the extreme injuries that he suffered," Richard Frankel said. "If there is such a thing as just a stab wound that kills someone, that's a hard thing to imagine. The amount that he must have suffered is heartbreaking.
"To have to hear that day after day and see the pictures and go away without a verdict for the first trial and then go through it again is definitely an ordeal."
Richard Frankel enjoyed the photo at the opening of the trial of Seth hiking at Haleakala National Park in Maui, where father and son took their first backpacking trip.
"It's my favorite spot in Hawaii and it was his favorite spot," Frankel said. "I had told him when I die I want my ashes to be scattered there. Some of his ashes are there."
Seth's father also remembers his son's personality.
"He was such a warm person," he said. "He just really loved people. He never bad-mouthed people."
In fact, Auburn Police initially had trouble finding a suspect.
"Detectives told us they never had a case like that where they couldn't find a witness to say anything bad about (someone)," Richard Frankel said. "It made it difficult for police to know where to go."
But even with the arrest, charge and conviction of Phillip, it remains a challenge for Richard Frankel as life goes on without his son.
"I think the hardest thing for me even now is when I see fathers with their young sons and I remember what that was like and for it to continue and then all of a sudden it's gone," he said.