Six months after murder, Frankel’s neighbors have questions, worries about his unsolved case

Jim Funston tossed a few peanuts at a squirrel on a recent afternoon last week, as he stood in his driveway along a quiet Auburn residential street. One of Funston's cats peers at the squirrel from underneath the back of a pickup. "They get along; they never bother each other," Funston said. That also goes for the neighbors along D Street Northwest. "It's very quiet around here," said Mike Nelson, an eight-year resident of the neighborhood as he stands in his doorway. "People watch out for each other." But nobody saw or heard anything on a Friday evening nearly six months ago.

Auburn resident Jim Funston

Auburn resident Jim Funston

Jim Funston tossed a few peanuts at a squirrel on a recent afternoon last week, as he stood in his driveway along a quiet Auburn residential street. One of Funston’s cats peered at the squirrel from underneath the back of a pickup.

“They get along; they never bother each other,” Funston said.

That also goes for the neighbors along D Street Northwest.

“It’s very quiet around here,” said Mike Nelson, an eight-year resident of the neighborhood as he stood in his doorway. “People watch out for each other.”

But nobody saw or heard anything on a warm Friday evening nearly six months ago.

It was on that night that Seth Frankel, 41, died. A neighbor found him the following day – May 22 – lying on the floor of his one-story home that sits across from West Auburn High School. He had died from stab wounds to his arms and neck, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Auburn Police have yet to make any arrests in the case.

“There is nothing new,” said Sgt. David Colglazier in a Nov. 9 phone interview. “We still need some lab results we do not have.”

Frankel’s neighbors have plenty of questions about what happened, but answers are few and far between. They all wished they had heard or seen something the night their neighbor died.

“I was home all evening,” said Funston, a 14-year resident of the neighborhood, and Frankel’s next-door neighbor. “I was watching the Mariners game. They got 15 runs and beat Texas or somebody. It happened so damn close. I wish he could’ve thrown something and busted a window out.”

Steve and Tini Turner also were present that spring evening in their home of 10 years. They enjoyed living next door to Frankel, who worked as a videographer for the City of Kent, and Frankel’s girlfriend, partly because they were so quiet compared to the previous renters of the home, who often played loud music and owned pit bulls that would run loose.

“It’s very devastating,” Tini Turner said. “You think as neighbors you would hear if something happens. We feel like we let him down.”

The neighbors knew Frankel’s girlfriend commuted each weekend to a job in Oregon. Funston said he received a call from her May 22, asking him to check on Frankel because she hand’t been able to reach him by phone since the previous evening.

Funston banged on the front door but didn’t get an answer. Eventually, he looked into a window and saw Frankel lying on the floor just inside the front door. Funston called 911. But it was too late.

He remembered the early-morning hours leading up to his discovery.

“It was a little funny that at about 1:30 or 2 in the morning I noticed his kitchen light was still on,” Funston said. “He never left that on. But nobody had seen or heard anything.”

Police officers, detectives and vehicles filled the street that Saturday as the house was transformed into a crime-investigation scene. Before police temporarily closed the street, people would drive by and look toward the home, trying to see what was going on.

Frankel, a divorced father of two young girls who often visited him, lived for about eight months at the home. He always had a friendly wave or smile for his neighbors. It was in keeping with the general upbeat feeling of the neighborhood.

“It’s been a really good neighborhood; we’ve always felt safe,” Tini Turner said.

But the lack of an arrest in the case keeps everyone wondering what happened that night.

“We haven’t heard or seen anything since the night it went down,” Steve Turner said, of his interaction with police.

Detectives are still waiting for evidence taken from Frankel’s home to be processed by the Washington State Patrol crime lab, which handles cases for many jurisdictions.

“It’s a priority for the Auburn Police, but not necessarily a priority with the state crime lab,” Colglazier said. “But with a homicide scene, there are quite a few items to take and a lot of items to check.”

Steve Turner wishes the lab processed evidence quicker.

“I can’t believe it takes that long to go through the crime lab,” he said.

Neighbors read or heard that police tracked down a Portland, Ore., man in late June as a person of interest in connection with Frankel’s death. That man remains a person of interest, but progress has stalled to connect him to the killing. King County prosecutors have told Auburn detectives they need more information before a case can be made against the man.

Cell phone records show the Oregon man in the area of Frankel’s home on the day Frankel died, according to police. Detectives removed several items during a June search of the Portland man’s home to send to the state crime lab.

“We have no movement there,” Colglazier said about the person of interest. “Some of that depends on lab results.”

The knowledge that Frankel’s killer remains at large keeps neighbors on edge here. Police have not released any information about whether Frankel knew his assailant or not.

It’s frustrating.

“I get scared to let our dogs out,” Tini Turner said.

“The first few months it sucked coming home,” Steve Turner said.

Now residents are trying to return to their regular routines, pushing the death to the back of their minds as they go through the day-to-day business of living.

“At first we all talked,” Tini Turner said of discussion among residents about the crime. “Now we go on with life, even though it’s there.”

Nelson hopes police find the killer soon.

“Good people get killed for no damn reason,” Nelson said. “If they do the deed and get away scot-free that’s not just.”

The neighbors continue their own search for answers.

“We Google Seth’s name for new stories,” Steve Turner said.

So far, they haven’t seen the story they want to read.

“We keep waiting for the news that they got somebody,” Tini Turner said.

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