March 14, 1978
2-year-old Amy Sue Seitz is abducted, assaulted, and murdered by serial predator Theodore Frank
Seitz had been left in the care of a babysitter while her mother went to work on March 14. She spent the morning napping, playing outside, and watching television until her sitter heard the front door close at around 10:15 a.m. The sitter searched for Seitz but was unable to locate the toddler.
Later that day, a man who lived in a rural area a few miles from Theodore Frank’s apartment returned home to find his house had been broken into, with furniture in disarray and a bloody rag left crumpled in the bathroom. He didn’t notify police of the incident, however, until two days later when one of his dogs pulled Seitz’s body from a drainage ditch on his property, roughly 25 miles (40 km) from the home where she was abducted.
It was determined that Seitz, who was identified by her fingerprints, had a blood alcohol content of .03 — the equivalent of two cans of beer for a person of her size. She had been tortured and mutilated with a set of locking pliers, raped, and strangled. Seitz’s autopsy also revealed she had been struck on the head three times, had “knife-like scratches” to her abdomen, and ligature marks to her wrists and ankles.
Frank was arrested in connection with Seitz’s murder months later. He had been linked by similar circumstances to a 1973 assault for which Frank had been convicted. In that attack, a 4-year-old had been forced to drink beer, had been scratched on her stomach with a knife, was sexually assaulted with inanimate objects including the knife, and was submerged in a stream. The victim was able to run to a nearby house and the occupant identified later Frank as the attacker.
Circumstantial evidence against Frank was also compiled and linked him to Seitz’s attack. He had driven his wife to work on the day of Seitz’s murder, and his route passed by the home where the toddler was being watched. He also missed his 2:00 psychologist appointment that day. Additionally, a set of locking pliers were found in his home, with a pattern matching the marks left on Seitz’s body.
While in custody, Frank admitted to another inmate that he was a child molester with a preference for girls between 3 and 5 years old. He recounted to the inmate how he had attempted to abduct Seitz twice before in the week leading to her murder but had been interrupted each time. He also confessed to abusing 100-150 children across Missouri, Illinois, Arizona, and California over a span of two decades.
Investigations into Frank’s past revealed a consistent string of predation on children as well as other sex crimes. His first conviction was in 1958 for indecent exposure and voyeurism. In the same year, he was arrested for molesting a 10-year-old and sentenced to the state hospital; he was released two years later. For the next twenty years, Frank would cycle through prisons and mental hospitals, becoming more aggressive, sadistic, and violent toward his victims. He was released from prison for the last time in 1978, six weeks before he murdered Seitz.
Frank was convicted of Seitz’s murder in 1980 and sentenced to death, though this verdict was overturned in 1985 on a technicality. During the original investigation, personal journals had been seized from Frank’s home without a search warrant, an act which was ruled to have been an invasion of privacy and subsequently the journals were deemed inadmissible. Contained within the books were Frank’s details of his desire to sexually and physically abuse children. “I didn’t have a happy childhood,” Frank wrote. “Neither will they.”
Chief Justice Rose Bird declared that the books regarded “[Frank’s] struggle to understand the motivations behind the crimes he had committed and were used as an aid to his psychiatric treatment.” This and similar comments were later used against her in a successful campaign to remove her from the California Supreme Court.
Frank was tried a second time, with his defense attorney contending his client should be imprisoned for life but not executed based on his mental health. The jury disagreed and Frank was again sentenced to death in 1987. “I am so elated,” Seitz’s grandmother Patti Linebaugh told reporters following the second verdict. “You can’t believe the relief that we feel just because justice has been done. Theodore Frank murdered Amy. The first jury came back with a death penalty conviction and now we’ve got it again.”
Linebaugh helped found Society’s League Against Molestation (SLAM) in 1988. The organization, which is currently inactive, successfully lobbied for laws to be enacted against child predators, including mandatory prison terms, the abolishment of convicted molesters being automatically placed into mental hospitals rather than prisons, and enhanced protection for child witnesses. According to the Los Angeles Times in a 1991 article, the number of child molesters in prison rose from 57 in 1979 to over 2,500 by the late 1980s.
Frank died of natural causes while awaiting execution on September 5, 2001. He was 66. “We really have mixed emotions,” Linebaugh said during an interview. “This is not something you think about beforehand. You anticipate him having to face execution.” She also noted, however, “It gives us an inner peace to know that he can never hurt another child.”
Richard Haas, an investigator for the district attorney who worked on Frank’s second trial, decried the slow pace of the justice system. “It is pretty pathetic when the person dies of old age 23 years after the offense. No child or adult deserves to die like Amy Sue Seitz. It was exactly the type of case the death penalty was meant for.”
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“Convicted killer of toddler dies at 65 on death row.” Deseret News. September 7, 2001
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People v. Frank (1985). [Crim. Nos. 21353, 22347. Supreme Court of California. June 6, 1985]. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. THEODORE FRANCIS FRANK, Defendant and Appellant. Archived: https://law.justia.com/cases/california/supreme-court/3d/38/711.html
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