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Oregon man pleads not guilty to murder of Kent city employee Seth Frankel

By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
March 21, 2011 · Updated 1:03 PM
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William L. Phillip Jr. pleaded not guilty Monday in Kent to the first-degree murder in May of Seth Frankel, a city of Kent employee. / CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter

A 30-year-old Oregon man pleaded not guilty Monday to a first-degree murder charge in connection with the May 21 stabbing death of Seth Frankel, a Kent city employee.

William L. Phillip Jr., 30, of Portland, entered the not guilty plea through his attorney David Seawell at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. Phillip remains in custody at the Regional Justice Center with bail set at $1 million.

Frankel, 41, a video-program coordinator for the city of Kent, was killed in his Auburn home. He was discovered the following day by a neighbor who was checking on his welfare, and who looked through a window, spotting the body.

"Yes, sir," Phillip said in court after Judge Jay White asked him to confirm his identity as well as if he understood the charge against him. Phillip made no other comments.

Richard Frankel, the father of Seth Frankel, traveled from his Hawaii home to attend the arraignment. Several other relatives and friends of Seth Frankel, who grew up in Hawaii, also attended the court proceeding. Richard Frankel said he did not want to make any comments to the media at this time.

Seawell, the attorney for Phillip, said in a phone interview after the arraignment that he had no comment about the case until he had more time to review all of the evidence and documents connected with the murder charge.

"My lack of comment is because I just got discovery today," Seawell said.

Auburn Police – with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service – arrested Phillip Dec. 10 in Portland in connection with Frankel's death.

Prosecutors allege that Phillip, a former boyfriend of the woman Frankel dated, drove to Auburn to kill Frankel because he was angry that someone else was dating the woman. Detectives connected Phillip to the murder through a blood-stained towel found at Frankel’s house as well as cell-phone records that put Phillip near the home May 21.

Frankel's girlfriend tipped off detectives that Phillip could be the one who killed Frankel. She said Phillip wanted a romantic relationship with her and spoke badly about Frankel even though he had never met him, according to charging papers. Phillip had seen a photo of Frankel that the girlfriend had.

Phillip did not speak to detectives about the case except for a brief comment with Portland Police on May 25. Portland detectives went to Phillip's home to interview him for information about the investigation into Frankel's death. When detectives asked Phillip if he had ever been to Auburn, he told them he wanted to "exercise his right to counsel," according to charging papers.

Phillip was extradited March 10 to Washington from Oregon, where he was held in the Multnomah County Jail since his arrest. Phillip fought extradition, which delayed his return to Washington for three months. Because Phillip fought extradition, the governors from each state had to sign papers to allow the proceeding.

Many suspects waive extradition, which means that a suspect agrees to go with authorities from another jurisdiction willingly, thus making an extradition hearing unnecessary.

Frankel joined the city of Kent in 2007 after 11 years as a director of production at a PBS station in Eureka, Calif. He was the employee behind many of the city meetings and events shown on Kent TV21.

Phillip is scheduled to return to court at 1 p.m. April 4 at the Regional Justice Center for a hearing when a trial date could be set or attorneys from either side could ask for more time to prepare the case.


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