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Man sentenced for manslaughter

Posted: September 1, 2012 - 8:23pm  |  Updated: September 1, 2012 - 8:36pm
Frank Bessette listens to discussion Thursday during his sentencing in Kenai Superior Court.  Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Frank Bessette listens to discussion Thursday during his sentencing in Kenai Superior Court.

A Soldotna man who murdered a young woman and stuffed her body into a cardboard television box was sentenced to nine years in prison Thursday at the Kenai Courthouse.  

Frank Bessette Jr., 54, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and tampering with evidence. He was originally charged with the murder and sexual assault of 20-year-old Michele Pecora after a party in 2008.

On May 20, 2009, investigating Alaska State Troopers informed Pecora’s mother the remains found three days earlier were those of her youngest daughter. It would have been Pecora’s 21st birthday. 

The state argued its case against Bessette, attempting to add three aggravators to lengthen the defendant’s sentence. The court decided against two of the aggravators, because many of the details about the murder remain unclear — the involved parties have argued for four years about when, where and how Pecora was murdered. Bessette’s attorney Steven Wells said the state used a creative argument, as his client’s admission of guilt pointed to his action rather than his mindset. 

Bessette allegedly killed Pecora then stuffed her body in a cardboard box. He drove around for four or five days with the box before dumping it in an abandoned vehicle in Kenai. Police discovered the body seven months later. 

During the sentencing, Bessette’s graying hair was pulled back into a ponytail, an overgrown mustache extended beyond his upper lip. His eyes remained downward throughout the trial. 

Neither the state nor defense presented witnesses at the sentencing, as the case never reached a jury trial. 

Kenai District Attorney Scot Leaders said Bessette’s conduct during his offense exemplified deliberate cruelty toward human life. The argument applied to both charges. 

Bessette refused to consider Pecora a victim, Leaders alleged, because of her alleged and willing involvement in the situation, referring to the partying. He bound her feet and hands at some point — the state failed to convince the court the binding occurred before Pecora died. 

Regardless, the binding shows Bessette’s demeaning attitude and deliberate cruelty, Leaders said. 

As Leaders began arguing another aggravator — the victim’s inability to resist harm due to alcohol and drug consumption — Superior Court Judge Anna Moran stopped the district attorney and asked how he knew Pecora was unable to protect herself. Moran ruled against the aggravator, due to the uncertainty. 

The initial medical examiner’s report said Pecora died from an accidental drug overdose. Her body was then released to her family, who cremated her remains.  Months later, the state hired a new medical examiner, Dr. Katherine Raven, to give a second opinion. Raven concluded that the manner of death was homicidal violence. 

Acting out of fear, Bessette chose to hide the body. Inflicting anguish on Pecora’s family was not his intention, Wells argued. 

Moran agreed the tampering with physical evidence charge constituted a most serious offense. Boxing and hiding the body increased the family’s distress, as well as the break down of evidence. 

Kim Kline, Pecora’s mother, did not attend the sentencing. It was emotionally too difficult, Leaders told the court. 

Instead, Leaders read Kline’s letter to the court.

Leaders said Kline wrote that the family received a lot of misleading information, people lied and covered up what really happened.

Kline also wrote that Michele was not a drug addict. She suffered from depression and did not leave the house for four months until the night of her disappearance, the letter says.

“She could never swallow medicine, even if they were for her benefit,” Leaders read from the letter. “She did not die of a drug overdose. There is one person responsible for her death, and he’s in this room.”

“They will always remember her short and precious life, full of beautiful memories,” Leaders read at another point. 

During closing arguments, Wells said he agreed with the state that the case was tragic, but added another adjective: bizarre. 

Rehabilitation for Bessette is unneeded, Wells said, as the manslaughter charge was not violent.

“It wasn’t a stabbing or a shooting,” he said. 

Bessette originally told Alaska State Troopers he killed Pecora by accidentally breaking her neck during a physical altercation with two other men. He changed his story, stating he woke up and found Pecora dead. The case was “a perfect storm,” Wells said. 

He recommended a lower sentence for the manslaughter charge. He asked, however, for a longer sentence on the tampering with evidence charge, agreeing with the prosecution’s aggravator. 

He also questioned his client’s mental health and told the court to impose an assessment as part of his sentencing. 

“Mr. Bessette has made statements all over the place,” Wells said. “I had issues with his statements.”

Bessette refused appointment of a public defender during his arraignment due to his supposed personal wealth. He told an officer during an interview he is a martial arts expert. 

He told Wells he had “coffee with Jesus for breakfast,” Wells said.

Bessette spoke briefly in court.

“I’m really sorry for everything that’s happened here,” he said. “If I had a chance to do it over again, I’d call the police when I found her body.”

Moran said imposing a sentence for Bessette was difficult; the circumstances surrounding the death remain a mystery. 

“We know (Pecora) was with Frank Bessette the night she disappeared, she ingested some drugs, they had a sexual encounter. He told authorities various stories about the encounter,” she said. “We know he admitted to killing her by breaking her neck, but there is no evidence to support that claim.

“The court has great sympathy for the family. However, I cannot enhance the sentence just because someone died.”

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/01/12 - 10:44 pm
6
0
I am Michele's mom and I am her voice

This is the sentencing in Alaska for manslaughter which is another word murder. If you want to get away with murder just like in the Casey Anthony trial, hide the body.
If ana confesses to taking the life of another human being why does he only get a 9 year sentence?
Our laws need to change.
If you take a life, you should get life in prison or be put to death.
Maybe the people who don't support the death penalty can let him come and live with them and their kids when scum like him are set free.
They do not deserve to breath the same air as us.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/01/12 - 10:58 pm
5
0
BTW

I was going to thank the judge but not anymore.
Would she have stated that she couldn't impose a longer sentence just because he killed someone if it were her daughter that he killed?
How ignorant!

highriskphoto
13
Points
highriskphoto 09/02/12 - 08:32 am
4
0
Dear Kim, No words, nor no

Dear Kim,
No words, nor no other's feelings can ever begin to fully understand what you go through every day of your life in respect to the loss you have suffered. There is no other more important thing in one's life than your child and to have such a monster rip it away, is unconscionable. I just want you to know Kim, that our prayers for resolve in your life may arrive someday. Please know that we supported you yesterday, today and will continue with that for you forever. We cannot feel your pain but we understand a small fraction of it and for that, your grief becomes part of ours. May you be well. Jim O.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/02/12 - 09:38 am
4
0
Thank you Jim, I appreciate

Thank you Jim, I appreciate your sincere thoughts for is.
I spoke with 3 reporters requesting to comment directly after sentencing and not one of them printed anything I had to say.
They simply stated that they would include parts of my Victim's Impact Statement. They printed 2 sentences from my 6 page Statement.
They have continued to print the words of this scumbag who told the oldest "story" in history to get off easy while mischaracterizomg Michele.
He had 7 months to come up with it.
I own the real facts of these crimes and I will not stop pounding at their door until the truth comes out and with the others involved who took part in the crimes and the cover up.
Our community deserves the truth about who we live among.

MRK
7
Points
MRK 09/02/12 - 10:25 am
5
0
Shocked and appalled

I am shocked and appalled. Why in the world would they sentence this murderer to only 9 years?! What went wrong in this process? Where does the incompetence lie? Can you as the mother request a trial by jury? This just doesn't make sense.

I'm so sorry for your loss!

radiokenai
562
Points
radiokenai 09/02/12 - 11:20 am
0
0
To the Mom....
Unpublished

Welcome to the world of the Liberal Clarion Press. Remember though, they are not professional reporters working for the Clarion, mostly kids right out of high school who wanna-be a reporter...

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/02/12 - 11:28 am
5
0
He plead out because he

He plead out because he "thinks" the Sexual Assault charges won't follow him to the real prison, but they will and he plead out because he is Guilty of all of the charges that didn't make it in press. There will be no trial.
With the help of our community they need to allow me to state the facts and get our newspaper to allow me to make a comment of the facts which are the truth and not the lies of this scumbag.
I can write them here, but they won't be publicized.
He will be eligible for parole in less than a year or two.
Meanwhile, the other scumbags who helped him with these crimes and the coverup are free without any consequences living and working in our community as if nothing happened.

msjinxie
110
Points
msjinxie 09/02/12 - 12:54 pm
6
0
disgusting

This man needs to be put in Spring Creek for the rest of his LIFE! Have him rooming with one of the worst guys there....have him live in fear for his life every single day....get to be the prey....I have NO sympathy for this pig. THIS is what is wrong with our Legal system! They are more concerned with defending the criminal than they are delivering the most severe punishment with crimes of this nature! How many beautiful children have to die in this state, by the hands of psychos before something changes! I do not get it! Kim, My heart goes out to your family. I cannot imagine what your family has endured. Have peace in knowing your girl is looking down from heaven smiling...She is an Angel now...God Bless you all, i am so very sorry.. :-(

roadnazi
15
Points
roadnazi 09/02/12 - 10:50 pm
4
0
Manslaughter Sentence

I am grossed-out by this sentence. Talk about putting the victim on trial! NOTHING excuses the fact that this woman was murdered, stuffed in a box, carted around for days, then disposed of like trash. 9 years? I was on jury duty for the month of July this past Summer, and do you know what I saw? The attorneys agreed upon the most ill-informed, ill-educated jurors. SHAME ON THE SYSTEM IN KENAI.

Susitna
14
Points
Susitna 09/03/12 - 08:32 pm
3
0
Can the verdict be appealed?

I realize that verdicts are usually appealed by the defense, but I have heard of the state appealing verdicts on occasion. What are the chances that you can get an appeal, a special district attorney, and take the whole damn thing to trial? If this guy told different stories and is now saying that he "found" the body in his car, why not start bugging Juneau and the big wig DA's to appeal this? I was once on grand jury for a manslaughter that the state had originally decided not to take to trial until the parents of the victim bothered the state enough to get a special prosecutor assigned.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/03/12 - 09:55 pm
4
0
It was going to trial until

It was going to trial until he "Plead" out.
That is exactly why I want my comments printed.
This case is similar to the Casey Anthony trial in that if a killer dumps the body and it isn't discovered until decomposition disables the State to neither prove or disprove the "manner" of death.
Due to the state of decomposition if it would have gone to trial he would have been released just like Casey Anthony.
"If you want to get away with murder, hide the body".
Either way, our community deserves the facts surrounding this case that have not been printed.

CindyJ
6
Points
CindyJ 09/04/12 - 10:28 am
4
0
Get what you Give.

If someone drives around with a body for 4 or 5 days. That is enough to tell us that he is guilty!!! If a judge can not figure this out , why do we have them? Our laws need to be changed. A person goes and shoots 20 people, 7 die and we give him LIFE?? Something is way wrong with this system.
Sound mind killings need to get what they give! We pay for these people to live in jail and have the good life.

mlh0825
21
Points
mlh0825 09/04/12 - 11:07 am
5
0
Judge....

This case sickens me. I am also a mother of daughters. This poor girl was a victim of a vicious murder. I want to remind the mother that this judge is an elected official. Please remember to petition AGAINST this judge when they run for a new term. I can't stress enough how important it is to retain a good judge and vote out a judge who has precided over a trial that was not necessarily fair. Nine years? Shame on the judge. Remember, this man will be out and amongst you all in nine years. I hope the judge feels safe and secure with this type of person on the loose. My heartfelt condolences to the mother, family, friends and others that cherished this girl in their lives.

thebigsister
15
Points
thebigsister 09/04/12 - 12:03 pm
3
0
I swear to god

If they write one more statment from that sick murders voice about my little 20yr old sister having had ANY sexual involvment with that man they WILL BE HEARING FROM ME!!!!!!!!

thebigsister
15
Points
thebigsister 09/04/12 - 12:03 pm
3
0
I swear to god

If they write one more statment from that sick murders voice about my little 20yr old sister having had ANY sexual involvment with that man they WILL BE HEARING FROM ME!!!!!!!!

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/04/12 - 01:03 pm
3
0
He won't serve 9 years!!! He

He won't serve 9 years!!! He was sentenced to 5 years for the Tampering with evidence charge with 2 suspended.
He was only sentenced for 6 more years on the Manslaughter charge.
In Alaska he will be eligible for less than a year or two at best and put free to live within our community.
He didn't get 9 years for the 1 charge.
I just returned from the Clarion office.
They are thinking about writing our side of the story, but I'm not holding my breath.
We will get it put there for public awareness somehow.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/04/12 - 01:03 pm
3
0
He won't serve 9 years!!! He

He won't serve 9 years!!! He was sentenced to 5 years for the Tampering with evidence charge with 2 suspended.
He was only sentenced for 6 more years on the Manslaughter charge.
In Alaska he will be eligible for less than a year or two at best and put free to live within our community.
He didn't get 9 years for the 1 charge.
I just returned from the Clarion office.
They are thinking about writing our side of the story, but I'm not holding my breath.
We will get it put there for public awareness somehow.

chatchat
5
Points
chatchat 09/05/12 - 12:05 am
3
0
He should have got a lot longer.

to theMOM very sorry for your loss. i myself only hear about this all going on about 6 month ago.i know he killed her and it was not an accident or manslaughter i myself think he needed to be locked up for the rest of his life. he has a lot of rage in him and at the little thing he blow up and try to hurt poeple. i know this cause i lived with him 17 years ago for less then 3 years. he tried to make us all live in fear of him. as soon as i could i got away from him and have never looked back. once again sorry for your loss.

mlh0825
21
Points
mlh0825 09/05/12 - 08:38 am
3
0
Shame on the judge

Again...shame on the judge. Petition against this judge ever being able to retain an office of this degree again. If this were my daughter, I would be calling for picketing...enough that the Anchorage media and news stations would become aware of it and need the story viewed by all...most importantly at this point, the Spring Creek Correctional inmates themselves. Make his life miserable for the short duration he is in there. Let them know that he is a sexual predator. My condolences to this grieving family. Do not allow this to take away from your cherished memories of this dear girl.

mlh0825
21
Points
mlh0825 09/05/12 - 08:38 am
3
0
Shame on the judge

Again...shame on the judge. Petition against this judge ever being able to retain an office of this degree again. If this were my daughter, I would be calling for picketing...enough that the Anchorage media and news stations would become aware of it and need the story viewed by all...most importantly at this point, the Spring Creek Correctional inmates themselves. Make his life miserable for the short duration he is in there. Let them know that he is a sexual predator. My condolences to this grieving family. Do not allow this to take away from your cherished memories of this dear girl.

Steph7675
6
Points
Steph7675 09/05/12 - 11:31 am
4
0
Manslaughter

I find it interesting that this individual and Ludvick, who killed a guy by shooting him in the face a few years ago, are both off on manslaughter charges, serving minimal time in jail. Ludvick got 7 years. Both will serve 1/3rd of their time in jail, and probably will both get time served, meaning they'll both be out in the next year or two. It's sad and disturbing that our legal system is so screwed up. Them you get the guys that hold up the Subway and they get more time than these murderers. Now I'm not condoning holdups, but where's the reasoning here? Something needs to happen, like quit letting liberal judges into office.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/05/12 - 12:38 pm
3
0
Further more I handed the

Further more I handed the Clairion reporter our side of the story and the Flat Out REFUSE to print any of it!
I will get it out there somehow.

gfds98765
1013
Points
gfds98765 09/05/12 - 10:09 pm
5
1
There is no Justice

There is no justice, not in these days when the America hating liberals have control of the courts. Remember that all judges are lawyers.

freedomlibertytruth
1398
Points
freedomlibertytruth 09/05/12 - 01:07 pm
4
1
liberal sentencing is the joke

liberal sentencing is the joke that the left wing criminal loving courts put over on citizens. They do this scam at a thing called 'sentencing.'

The jury of your neighbors, who are the citizens living in your community, may convict a disgusting murdering dirtbag.

But then the judges are left to their own devices and desires and hand out tiny or non-existent sentences to these monsters.

AND IT'S LAWFUL, as they write the laws, control the laws, and control all of the courts in the land all the way up to the Supreme Court.

lkpomn912
931
Points
lkpomn912 09/05/12 - 01:36 pm
5
1
next time you need help call a crackhead

You know how you all hate the cops, but demand they work like supermen and are willing to DIE to save you from the scum when you call.

You call cops 'filth', but expect the testimony of their investigations to nail the people who hurt YOU and your family.

You go to traffic court and tell that 'little white lie' to get yourself out of a ticket, but demand the truth be told when you are robbed.

You insult EVERY public safety worker who tells you stories about their hatred of injustice and the truth about the workings of your Non-justice system. You call them cruel, hard hearted, unsympathetic Republican liars.

You voted in these politicians and judges, and then you act shocked and surprised at the obscenity of their actions. You allow these laws to be passed. because you don't and you won't pay any attention to your government, and you get the one that you created.

This is your America. And it always entertains you to read the little snotty American hating anti law and order notes in the comments sections...............right up until these unspeakable horrors happen to you.

If you want it stopped decide how can return America to the laws of your fathers and grandfathers, then make it happen.

freedomlibertytruth
1398
Points
freedomlibertytruth 09/05/12 - 02:25 pm
3
2
where are the "re puke" comments

a conservative is just a liberal who has been mugged.

and by then it's too late, the 'liberal' has already suffered the ugly consequences of your liberal voting policies. and it can't be undone. No murdered child can be returned. This mother should not have to endure this life long misery at the hands of both the criminal and the courts.

so where are all of the regular 'gang' of slimey foul mouthed Republican haters? Where are your nasty comments about those people who fight to protect the innocent BEFORE they are destroyed by evil.

Where are all of your selfish stupid vile rants that you and your little buddies should be able to do what the hell you want without "Repukes" telling you NOT to . Or is it that you just find you are too much like this murderer in some tiny way, and it scares you. You don't want to get put away when YOU are caught in your crimes.

It's your liberals who LIE and tell you how society should love these misunderstood angels who commit crimes. They don't really mean to hurt you, they just have had a rough life. You should be more considerate of the guys FEELINGS, and not be mean and put him in jail. He only slaughtered this One girl, and only this One time. Give him a BREAK.

gfds98765
1013
Points
gfds98765 09/05/12 - 02:57 pm
1
0
shame on the judge is right

Disgusting, shame on the judge is right.
The thinkin that a woman found dead murdered and tortured and her dead rotting flesh is carried around by the murder, is high and mighty morally superior to a gun toten woman who has to explain to the police how her attacker got his ass shot off tryin to hurt her, is the reason we have self defense laws and the right to own guns. You have my sympathies Mom.

JOAT
487
Points
JOAT 09/05/12 - 07:49 pm
2
3
The judge? Try the Lawyers!

While ya'll sit here bemoaning the judge in this case, why do you insist on giving free pass to the real criminals of injustice? Nothing happens in any case without the Lawyers directing it. They meet behind closed doors, coach the lies, and make secret deals with each other. And they get paid to do it.

The worst part is, they trick the public into electing them to legislative offices where they get to write the laws that make their lawyer jobs possible. And many of those laws also bind the judges so that they cannot use their full "judgment" to direct sentencing.

I'm not defending this judge as I know nothing about the person or the case. But before you guys get your lynch mob together for the judge, you might want to dig back a little bit deeper into the root of this injustice and the vast lawyer conspiracy that got us to this point.

Susitna
14
Points
Susitna 09/06/12 - 09:54 am
1
2
What is WRONG with you people?

This story is about the sentencing of a man who murdered a 20 year old girl/daughter/sister of people living in our community. And YOU decide it's appropriate to start calling liberals names, blaming liberals, blaming the posters for not appreciating the cops, and everything else under the sun! Have you EVER lost a loved one to a violent crime? If you have then you should know that what you are posting is not only unhelpful but also irrelevant.

Mind your manners, for crying out loud, and post your personal political beliefs elsewhere. This is not the place for them. I have also reported your comments and hope they are removed soon so the mother doesn't have to read any more of them and be burdened by what you have to say on top of the burden of her daughters death.

I can't believe your insensitivity.

rocky
37
Points
rocky 09/06/12 - 12:09 pm
1
0
grrrrr

I am sorry for your family's loss. I know it's probably not appropriate to say this, but she was indeed an addict regardless of the depression issue. I know this because I used to hang out with her alot and used with her several times. she was a beautiful young lady and a joy to be around. I believe the family's words were "always in our hearts as one." As for the sick s.o.b. that was allegedly involved in this, I don't think the sentence was long enough. Sometimes accidents happen and people panick. Regardless if he killed her or not, I think that placing someone in a box,driving around with them, and leaving them there for the winter is more twisted than killing someone accident or not. I told him that in jail and I believe he knows that. It took my everything to not hurt him in jail, and jail won't do him anygood as far as I'm concerned. He's protected there and anyone that messes with him gets punished. I had to convince myself to give it to my Higher Power. It's not for me to judge. He is the one that has to live with his actions.

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