Murder in Oregon has been steadily breaking down the timeline, events, and characters associated with the 1989 murder of Michael Francke. At the time, he was the newly hired head of the Department of Corrections in Salem, Oregon, and he was found brutally stabbed outside of his office building the night before he was going to testify about corruption he’d uncovered within Corrections. Authorities passed it off as a robbery gone wrong, but many citizens, including Michael’s brothers, thought Mike had been assassinated. On the last episode, host Lauren Bright Pacheco introduced us to a suspect who was, somehow, untouchable: Tim Natividad, a violent drug dealer with a penchant for knives. On this episode, Lauren learns more about Tim, his ties to the prison corruption, and why he was never charged in the investigation.
Lauren sits down with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Nigel Jaquiss, who was contacted in 2007 by Greg Johnson, saying he had some information on the murder of Michael Francke. Greg knew Tim from the Salem drug scene in the early 1980s, and would act as an enforcer for his drug deals. “Natividad had asked him to drive him to the office where Mike Francke was killed...the Dome Building,” Nigel recalls. “And that, later, picked Natividad up...driven him to another location...where Natividad received an envelope full of cash” from “the warden at the Oregon State Prison.”
That wasn’t the only story tying Tim to the murder. Journalist and co-host, Phil Stanford, tells Lauren that a prisoner named Konrad Nick Garcia went “to his counselor in prison and...says he was approached by Tim Natividad to do the murder, and he knows Scott McAlister, the prison lawyer, arranged it.” Konrad was intimately tied to the corruption in the prison; Kevin Francke, Mike’s brother, discovered that Konrad’s wife, Melody, would visit him multiple times a day, smuggling contraband. “She's moving a lot of drugs into the joint. She's going in to visit three times a day, seven days a week, which is unheard of,” Kevin points out. “You're not allowed that many that often, unless your name doesn't go on the visitation records. So you must've known somebody that could get you in without documenting your visit.” Melody’s daughter, Karie Rothschild, would sometimes accompany her: “I remember her having to go into the bathroom, and I think that's what they did, is they put stuff in the bathroom and then the inmate would go in...and get it and put it in their butt or mouth or wherever.”
Karie’s home life with Melody was nothing short of a nightmare; she describes drugs and needles everywhere, and prisoners using their home for conjugal visits and a place to stash contraband. Scott McAlister and the other corrupt Corrections officials could “get inmates out at any time at their leisure,” Kevin says. “And from the maximum security prison...he could take anybody out with him at his leisure, and take him back at his leisure.” Lauren fills in the blanks: “Sounds like a pretty foolproof alibi, if people think you’re in prison.” But in Konrad’s case, the in-and-out shenanigans weren’t necessary; he was due to get out on parole a week before Mike was murdered. But then he got scared, Kevin says: “Konrad felt like he was getting set up...so he got himself into trouble that got him put in the hole just a few weeks before the murder.” Six months later, he told the prison attorney about the set-up; the police sent “one of the lead detectives, Ken Paseena, to talk to Konrad,” Phil tells us. “And it’s clear from Paseena’s report that they're not really much interested in talking about Natividad, and he doesn't even ask about McAlister...that’s pretty much the end of Natividad as far as the official investigation goes. They can’t pursue him without pursuing McAlister.”
Hear more about the twists and turns in the case, the devastating home life Karie lived through, and the corruption Mike was up against, on this episode of Murder In Oregon.
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