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Man Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Killing of Prisons Chief

July 12, 1991 GMT

SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ A man with a lengthy criminal record has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the stabbing death of the director of Oregon prison system.

The jury that convicted Frank Gable of aggravated murder last month in the death of Michael Francke deliberated more than six hours Thursday before recommending the sentence. The judge then imposed the sentence.

Gable, 31, faced a possible death sentence.

Francke, 42, was found stabbed to death Jan. 18, 1989, on a porch outside his office building in Salem. Police believe he was killed the previous evening when he left work.

No clear motive ever was established in court for the slaying.

Prosecutors theorized that Francke surprised Gable while Gable was looking through his car for documents on informants.

They pointed to Gable’s convictions for robbery, burglary, forgery and other crimes, describing an escalation of violence that led to Francke’s murder.

The defense maintained that no physical evidence linked Gable to the crime, and suggested more than one person may have been involved.

″I didn’t kill Michael Francke 3/8″ Gable shouted as he was being returned to jail Thursday. ″I don’t know who did. I wasn’t there.″

Francke’s brothers, Patrick and Kevin, said after the verdict they remain unconvinced that Gable was the killer.

However, District Attorney Dale Penn said the sentencing closes the case and he hopes it puts to rest unfounded theories.

″We don’t have any other admissible evidence against anyone,″ Penn said. ″We have no basis to proceed further.″

During a recess in the trial Wednesday, Gable married a woman who gave up her law practice to become his sweetheart.

Karen Steele, 32, of Portland, said she fell in love with Gable while defending him on an unrelated weapons charge. She resigned from her law firm after the relationship became public.