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Auburn police arrest Portland man in Frankel homicide

Seth Frankel, 41, a video program coordinator for the City of Kent, was the victim of a May 21 homicide. - Charles Cortes/Auburn Reporter
Seth Frankel, 41, a video program coordinator for the City of Kent, was the victim of a May 21 homicide.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/Auburn Reporter

Auburn Police Department major crimes detectives – with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service – arrested a 30-year-old Portland man today in connection with the murder of Seth Frankel, an Auburn resident killed at his home May 21.

The King County Prosecutor's Office has charged William L. Phillip Jr. with one count of first-degree murder. He is being held on $1 million bail in the Multonomah County Jail, where he awaits extradition to Washington state. He is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 21 at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Auburn police's extensive seven-month investigation was aided as well by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, the Kent Police Department’s major crimes unit, the Portland Bureau of Police, the Gresham Oregon Police Department, the Oregon State Crime Lab and the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

According to the account of Auburn Police Detective Jason Blake, which was included with charging papers at the King County Prosecutor's Office, Frankel, 41, was estimated to have died at 9 p.m. on May 21. His body was found the following morning.

A neighbor doing a welfare check for Frankel's girlfriend while she was in Oregon found him the following day, lying on the floor of his one-story home at 102 D St. NW, across from West Auburn High School.

Emergency personnel broke in and found Frankel lying on the floor of the living room, his feet just two or three feet inside the threshold. He was covered in blood, dead from stab wounds to his arms and neck, according to the autopsy later conducted by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Crime scene personnel found obvious signs of a struggle in the living room, with significant blood present. Detectives noticed two black cable ties, the first around Frankel's upper right arm and the second lying on the floor under an overturned coffee table.

Frankel, a divorced father of two young girls, had lived at the home for about eight months. He was employed by the City of Kent as its video program coordinator.

According to Blake's account, none of the neighbors, friends or family could offer a clue as to who could have killed or even wanted to harm a man they all described as "sweet," a "good father" and "a good friend."

According to Blake's account, the only one known to have had a negative opinion of Frankel was Phillip Jr., who had dated Frankel's girlfriend a few years earlier. He was reported to have been unhappy when she ended her relationship with him to date Frankel, with whom she had previously been involved. The two men had never met, but Phillip Jr., who wanted his old girlfriend back, badmouthed him as "old and ugly," according to Blake's account.

On May 25, according to Blake's account, detectives from the Portland Police Homicide Unit went to Phillips Jr.s' apartment. When asked if he had ever been to Auburn, Phillip Jr. immediately asked for an attorney.

Auburn police detectives interviewed Phillip Jr. three days later at his residence in Portland. According to Blake's account, detectives at that interview noticed bruising on the fingers of his right hand and a Band-Aid covering the webbing between the thumb and index finger on the same hand.

According to Blake's account, Phillip Jr. claimed he had injured his hand while working at the Oregon Convention Center. Detectives later confirmed he had indeed injured his hand at work, but according to Blake's account, a coworker said Phillip Jr. did not sustain any open cuts nor did his hand bleed as a result of that injury.

According to Blake's account, Phillip Jr.s' work supervisors told detectives that he had access to cable ties at the Oregon Convention Center of the same type, size and color as the cable ties found at the murder scene.

According to Blake's account,, a search warrant served on AT&T to obtain cell phone records showed that Phillip Jr. had used his cell phone in Auburn at 7:57 p.m. and 8:52 p.m. on the night of the murder, and that the tower his cell phone used was less than a half-mile from the murder scene. According to Blake's account, Phillip Jr. made a third phone call at 8:52 p.m., which began using one tower and ended using another. According to Blake's account, that time frame coincided with the estimated time of the murder, which the King County Medical Examiner reported as 9 p.m.

According to Blake's account, while processing Phillip Jr.s' mother's vehicle, which he had used in May, detectives found trace amounts of blood on the dash and inside the driver's door, but the samples were too meager to obtain a DNA profile from them.

Detectives were later able to match a blood stain at the murder scene with Phillip Jr., according to Blake.

Dana Hinman, public affairs manager for the City of Auburn and friend of Frankel's, was relieved to learn of the arrest.

"It's a relief to see someone brought to justice for the loss of this wonderful colleague of ours," Hinman said. "Kudos to Auburn police and the other agencies that have been working on this."

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.

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