Truesee's Daily Wonder

Truesee presents the weird, wild, wacky and world news of the day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

 

Fugitive hid 40 years in plain sight

Fugitive hid 40 years in plain sight

"They just forgot about me," said Dryman

 

Updated: Tuesday, 15 Jun 2010, 7:55 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 15 Jun 2010, 7:55 AM EDT

 

MATT GOURAS

Associated Press Writer

 

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The aging Frank Dryman, a notorious killer from Montana's past, had hidden in plain sight for so long that he forgot he was a wanted man. 

In an exclusive jailhouse interview with The Associated Press, Dryman detailed how he invented a whole new life, with a new family, an Arizona wedding chapel business — and even volunteer work for local civic clubs. 

"They just forgot about me," said Dryman, in his first interview since being caught and sent back to the prison he last left in the 1960s. "I was a prominent member of the community." 

That is, until the grandson of the man he shot six times in the back came looking.

Dryman had been one step ahead of the law since 1951 when he avoided the hangman's noose, a relic of frontier justice still in use at the time.

Less than 20 years later he was out on parole. Not content with that good fortune, he skipped out and evaded authorities for four decades. After a while he even forgot about hiding and signed up for V.A. benefits from his days in the Navy in 1948. 

Now the 79-year-old Dryman is back behind bars, likely for what remains of his life. 

He was caught only after his long-ago victim's grandson got curious and started poking around. 

Dryman was hitching a ride from Shelby cafe owner Clarence Pellett on a cold and snowy day in 1951 when he pulled a gun and ordered Pellett out of his own car and began firing.

Dryman does not deny the crime — just that he's not the same man today. He has been Victor Houston for decades. At the time of the murder, and after being discharged from the Navy for mental issues, he was going by yet another name: Frank Valentine. 

"That kid, Frank Valentine, he just exploded," Dryman says of his crime. "I didn't shoot that man in the back. That wild kid did. That's not me. 

"Victor Houston tried to make up for it by being an honor citizen."

Dryman says he served his time, which he did until paroled. But a Montana Parole Board not accustomed to leniency on those who walk away from supervision was not impressed with Dryman's subsequent good deeds. Last month the board sent him back behind bars to serve what remains of his life sentence. 

Dryman said he disappeared from parole in California to get away from a wife he didn't like. He said he's not sure why he just didn't leave the wife and remain on parole. 

But once gone, he said, he didn't look back. His new wife and family knew nothing of his past. He put down roots in Arizona City painting signs, a trade learned in prison, and performing weddings. 

"I never thought I was a parole violator. I was Victor Houston. I never looked over my shoulder," Dryman said. "I just forgot about it." 

On his birthday he used to get two cards from his brother: one for Houston and one for Valentine. 

"I thought it was cute. I had no fear," Dryman said. 

He said the details of his past are just coming back: the shooting, his original sentence and the cause he became for opponents of the death penalty, and his first stint in prison. 

"Only since I have been back here did I start to think about it," said Dryman. "To be honest, I didn't even remember the victim's name." 

Dryman understands he is not likely to get out again now. And he is not kindly disposed to the victim's grandson, the Bellevue, Wash., oral surgeon who became intensely interested in a piece of family history he knew nothing about. Clem Pellett compiled reams of old documents and tracked down his grandfather's killer with the help of a private investigator. 

"I can't blame him for what he did," Dryman said. "But I think it was so wrong he spent so much money getting me here. I feel it is unfair." 

Many in the Pellett family do remember the murder. A dozen descendants showed up at the parole hearing when Dryman was rearrested to testify against his release, saying the killing had forever changed the history of the family. 

They said as kids they lived in fear of hitchhikers — even in fear of Dryman. Some remembered Dryman's courtroom outburst at his first trial that resulted in conviction and a hanging sentence. 

"He turned to the judge and said, 'I'm going to kill you,' he turned to the jury and said 'I am going to kill you' and he turned to the crowd and said some stuff like that," said Clem Pellett. "He was an angry young man who felt powerless."

Pellett only learned the details of the case last year after cleaning out boxes of old newspaper clippings. His own parents never talked about the murder. He had never even really known the Montana side of his family, where the pain of the killing still lingers.

Pellett, without even talking to those relatives, began a quest to learn more, compiling old records, court transcripts, ancient arrest records for Dryman's petty crimes prior to the shooting — all of which he used to track down his grandfather's killer.

Pellett said he was driven by an intense curiosity, and would now like to meet with Dryman to fill in holes in the story that he may chronicle in a book. 

Dryman doesn't think he will agree to the meeting. 

He also denounces the allegation that he made a courtroom death threat, which Clem Pellett said was confirmed through his research. 

Dryman lives in a low security wing of the Montana State Prison, wears prison-issue clothing and due to failing eyesight walks with a cane to avoid tripping. Being interviewed in the same parole board room where was he returned to prison for life, Dryman said of Clem Pellett, "He's already got me here, he should be happy. I think they got their pound of flesh, and I accept it." 

One of the original prosecutors in the case also never forgot about Dryman. 

"It was a very notorious case, perhaps the biggest of the time," said John Luke McKeon, now 85. 

McKeon, a very young assistant attorney general assigned to the case despite his own opposition to the death penalty, said the Montana Supreme Court threw out the hanging sentence amid some of the most intense arguments over the death penalty the state had seen. 

McKeon wrote a letter to the parole board in late May asking for leniency, telling the board he thinks Dryman has paid for his crime. But it got there after the board made its decision. 

The former prosecutor doesn't see any way out for Dryman this time. 

"I don't think the governor's going to give him exoneration," he said. "I think he is going to die in prison."

 

Frank Dryman, aka Victor Houston sits for an interview with the Associated Press

Frank Dryman, aka Victor Houston sits for an interview with the Associated Press from inside the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Mont., on Monday, June 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Mike Albans)


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

Archives

June 2021   May 2021   April 2021   March 2021   February 2021   January 2021   December 2020   November 2020   October 2020   September 2020   August 2020   July 2020   June 2020   May 2020   April 2020   March 2020   February 2020   January 2020   December 2019   November 2019   October 2019   September 2019   August 2019   July 2019   June 2019   May 2019   April 2019   March 2019   February 2019   January 2019   December 2018   November 2018   October 2018   September 2018   August 2018   July 2018   June 2018   May 2018   April 2018   March 2018   February 2018   January 2018   December 2017   November 2017   October 2017   September 2017   August 2017   July 2017   June 2017   May 2017   April 2017   March 2017   February 2017   January 2017   December 2016   November 2016   October 2016   September 2016   August 2016   July 2016   June 2016   May 2016   April 2016   March 2016   February 2016   January 2016   December 2015   November 2015   October 2015   September 2015   August 2015   July 2015   June 2015   May 2015   April 2015   March 2015   February 2015   January 2015   December 2014   November 2014   October 2014   September 2014   August 2014   July 2014   June 2014   May 2014   April 2014   March 2014   February 2014   January 2014   December 2013   November 2013   October 2013   September 2013   August 2013   July 2013   June 2013   May 2013   April 2013   March 2013   February 2013   January 2013   December 2012   November 2012   October 2012   September 2012   August 2012   July 2012   June 2012   May 2012   April 2012   March 2012   February 2012   January 2012   December 2011   November 2011   October 2011   September 2011   August 2011   July 2011   June 2011   May 2011   April 2011   March 2011   February 2011   January 2011   December 2010   November 2010   October 2010   September 2010   August 2010   July 2010   June 2010   May 2010   April 2010   March 2010   February 2010   January 2010   December 2009   November 2009   October 2009   September 2009   August 2009   July 2009   June 2009   May 2009   April 2009   March 2009   February 2009   January 2009   December 2008  

Powered by Lottery PostSyndicated RSS FeedSubscribe