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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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freedomlibertytruth
1398
Points
freedomlibertytruth 09/06/12 - 12:11 pm
3
0
everyone but you, support the 'MOM'

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

Susitna doesn't want the Moms story told.
Susitna wants all free speech stopped.
Susitna doesn't want any truth to be told. not now not ever.
Susitna doesn't want any debate about our court system.
Susitna wants you all to be cowardly sheep with "manners"
not free men with opinions, with the courage to speak.
Susitna wants to pretend that the comments were a burdon
when the comments are fully SUPPORTIVE of the family.
Susitna doesn't want you to speak in comradship of the
victims family, you must support liberals or SHUT UP.
Susitna wants the FREE PRESS to shut down, and become
the propaganda of the party of anti law-and-order.
Susitna proves that it IS the liberals that are guilty, but
demands that you not be allowed to SAY IT publically.
Susitna tries to convice you that it is "irrelevant " to explain
exactly HOW this injustice has been allowed to happen.
Susitna wants you to experience the "bliss of ignorance"
Susitna wants you to be fooled into believing that it's not
"helplful" to change your government when it is not serving your needs.

lkpomn912
931
Points
lkpomn912 09/06/12 - 01:38 pm
3
0
victims Mom, sisters, friends speak out

'...Just as it is a citizen's duty to chastise, to reprimand, her or his government when it is in the wrong, it is the duty of every writer to be a social and political critic. I feel free to censure evil within everything I write, not merely with my every breath and every thought.

A patriot will readily and passionately criticize her or his government when it is evil, corrupt, and infamous; refusing to do so is treason. It is the duty of every citizen to criticize, censure and scourge the political fiends who pretend to serve the public when those villainous brutes serve only tyranny, greed, hatred, and prejudice. .."

(some free thoughts - Henry David Thoreau?)

it is only dictators, tyrants and liberals that want you silent.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/06/12 - 02:28 pm
3
0
I've been waiting for the

I've been waiting for the worms.
Rocky! You say it's not for you to judge,
Then you go on to slam a friend who is dead. Wow! Why am I not surprised? Where were you then? Just because she was convinced by scumbags to try some of the bad drugs doesn't mean she was an addict. It means her friends, like the system continue to fail her even after she was killed. Read it again! The first ME failed. The new ME stated that Michele did not die from a drug overdose, she died from a homicide. The killers staged pills that were found in her throat and never in her stomach or tissue. Her body had extensive bruising to her genital area. She died a violent and helpless death at the hands of cowards! Gerald Terp helped him with the dumping grounds that belonged to Gerald. Timmy Hopper was there when Michele was killed by him and Frank. The community rewarded these killers and accomplices by building them a new house. Look it up! More good Clarion reporting!
She DID NOT die from a Drug overdose.
She was murdered and sexually assaulted and bound with duct tape, then thrown away like trash.
Franks son Chris new it and lied to my face 2 months after her death that he saw her in December. They are all LIARS!

Suss
3039
Points
Suss 09/06/12 - 02:38 pm
0
3
"freedom" from brains, truth and honor

"Freedom" will not understand how his blowtard responses appear to others. I would hope someday "Freedom" is taught his lessons.

freedomlibertytruth
1398
Points
freedomlibertytruth 09/06/12 - 05:38 pm
3
0
Yes, Yes, Yes. Attack a

Yes, Yes, Yes.
Attack a commenter. Yes, ignore the crime. Yes, ignore the victim. Yes, ignore the family.
Ignore the courts actions, ignore your party politiks, ignore ignore ignore.
No thought of sympathy or empathy for the victim or the family? Not one word?

You come after me. Do you think I care, how you, who are blind and have no mind, view my responses?

The highest human powers of reasoning and logic have abandoned you.
You do not refute or deny any statement made in the comments. You cannot.
You are unable to even understand or evaluate the facts presented to you.
The attempts to silence the opinions of others have failed.

So you are left with the only power that is familiar to you:
The lowest power of an animal, snarl, growl, insults, make threats.

Are you like the men who savagely brutalized this young woman?
You write: “I would hope someday "Freedom" is taught his lessons.”
Do you also think that the victim was taught HER lessons?
And who’s going to ‘teach’ this lesson? You? Or do you need a gang of thugs to help you.
But then, why not? Your system of justice will set you free. You COUNT on it.

“MOM” do you see that I am labeled as a being a mentally retarded blowhard. Do you now see what you are up against? These are the ‘voters’. These are ‘ the people.’ You never stood a chance for the justice that you seek. Our Founding Fathers are lost and forgotten.

rocky
37
Points
rocky 09/06/12 - 10:01 pm
1
1
To the MOM

Ya know I may have been a worm, and I did not slam a dead friend!!! She's the one that offered me drugs, so maybe you are in denial about your daughters behaviors. I apologize if it's not what you want to read and I'm sorry if I offended you or was rude, it is not my intentions. I tried to talk with michelle several times and help her. I never offered her drugs and always told her that she had so much more potential or that she was to young to throw her life away and pleaded with her to quit before she got in to deep. I wished I would've been a better friend and not a fiend but obviously I struggled with my own addiction. I was in a treatment facility trying to get my life together when I heard that she was missing. I was praying for her not preying on her. So please don't think I am trying to be disrespectful. I understand completely that she didn't die from OD.!! I totally agree with you that the system failed her and your family. I am very sympathetic for you loss and again apologize if I offend you. I'm not good with words. I've met most of the people that were involved and they are truelly worms and monsters. I have tremendous respect for you,I have children and if something like this were to happen I would not be strong enough to NOT take matters/justice into my own hands. But then would I just be stooping to their level??? I pray that they all get worse than they deserve. I believe in Karma.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/06/12 - 11:40 pm
2
0
Rocky if you have something

Rocky if you have something to say about Michele bring it to me. You know where I live. This is not the place for your venting. It serves no purpose here and it's irrelevant. Come on over to my house. I haven't moved. For you to pass judgement here after she has been killed IS offensive to me and to her. You aren't proving anything here with what you have to say. The comments here should be about the mis outcome of the sentencing regarding the scumbag who lies and gets off easy. Where do you get off on posting your BS that has nothing to do with this mis report? Come on over and we will take it up at my house if you have some unresolved issues. Please. This is not the place for your words and your apology means nothing until you make your proper amends to me in person. Try to remember who you are talking to here. Be the friend and parent you are pretending to be and you are right, you are not very good at it.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/06/12 - 11:44 pm
2
0
Rocky! This was no accident.

Rocky! This was no accident. Why would you ever think for a minute that the scum of the earth would tell you OR anyone the truth???? Stop. For the sake of Michele's beautiful memory, stop.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/06/12 - 11:50 pm
2
0
Rocky! While you are at it

Rocky! While you are at it why don't you elaborate on the real scum bags. That's what we really need to hear! Bring that crap to the table! You are off base. Tell me what you know that you are keeping secret like everyone else who is withholding the truth! What are you afraid of? Me? I am not afraid. BRING IT TO ME MAN.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/07/12 - 12:21 am
2
0
Rocky! Please come over and

Rocky! Please come over and talk to me in person. I want to hear what you have to say.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/07/12 - 11:24 am
2
0
And another thing...we can

And another thing...we can only hope that when your kids are sitting around looking to experiment with something they never imagined their friends handing them that would cause long term damage that at least a real friend would never have let happen in the first place, that anyone of them were there to do the right thing. Friends are supposed to help each other and save each other from harm. That are supposed to tell the truth. That NEVER happened here and this is the result of ongoing fowl play to the deepest level. When your kids get caught up in it do you call them DRUG ADDICTS! No, you call them helpless against a social group that NEVER had it in them to save one of their own and they failed her. When you make IRRELEVANT statements out of context you continue to cover up the truth.
STOP BEATING AROUND THE BUSH AND TELL THE TRUTH!!!

rocky
37
Points
rocky 09/07/12 - 12:01 pm
0
2
mom

I don't know anything more than what I've said. I wish I could talk to you in person but it would do no good and probably just cause more pain talking about how wonderfull you daghter was. As I just said I really don't know much about the people involved in the case or what really happened. That was not the crowd that I ran with. I was in treatment and in jail throughout the entire ordeal. I met the scum involved in jail and only heard rumors. However I do have speculations, I do believe Mr. Hopper was more involved than he claims. It is quite obvious that the authorities have seriously mis-handled this case from start to finish and have let the entire family as well as the community down. I don't understand why the courts give creeps that are involved in heinous crimes like this, less time than someone that has commited a "minor" offense. Have you got on sound-off about these issues or talked to any state/U.S. represenatives? I don't know that it'd do any good, but please know that you have my support and I'm willing to help in anyway possible.

TheMom
78
Points
TheMom 09/07/12 - 12:10 pm
2
0
OK. Then tell us here, beings

OK. Then tell us here, beings you don't want to talk to me in person, why do you think Timmy Hopper had more to do with it? I am up for opinion and facts. Tell us here and now and don't candy coat anything because I can see through it. It's all going to come out and I want all of it. We ALL deserve the truth.

Susitna
14
Points
Susitna 09/07/12 - 11:23 pm
0
2
To freedomlibertytruth

I think you are a very disturbed human being because you are commenting on a homicide of a daughter. You have politicized it when all you really had to do was pay your sincere regrets without blaming the sentencing on liberals or republicans or any political party. It isn't politics to blame here, it's the killer. And don't EVER assume that you know what I think or how I vote because you are so ridiculous that no matter how you phrase things, you'll never know what's in my heart or mind. I know the mother in this story, I love her dearly. You I could care less about. From now on I shall have you on the ignore list, because every last thing you post is completely irrelevant and unhelpful.

I hope you crawl back under your rock and pull your aluminum foil hat on real tight, because in sure the mother ship is looking for you.

,

freedomlibertytruth
1398
Points
freedomlibertytruth 09/11/12 - 11:46 pm
2
0
The ‘MOM’ expressed outrage about the sentence.

The ‘MOM’ expressed outrage about the sentence. She was right! Several comments explained how it happens. It may be irrelevant to the unthinking, who only search their feeble unhelpful emotions for answers. Facts will never be found there. The blame can be placed, through research, and verifiable legal precedence …… it leads clearly and exactly to a specific political ideological party.

You don’t find the abusers of corpses disturbed, but find writers in the local fish-wrap are so? absurd, ludicrous.

Since you say you are so close to the parties involved, it follows that you may be familiar (perhaps also personally intangled) with the drug use, alcohol abuse, and the violence life style choices that resulted in this tragedy. You probably know the barbarians who murdered and offended the corpse of the young lady.

Therefore; any reasonable person on the Kenai Peninsula would be much much much safer; to find a well fortified bunker (under a rock), put on body armor and Kevlar helmets ( hats), and look for our fellow law abiding - Constitution loving -James Wesley Rawles reading – American Patriots ( The USS Yorkshire et al), than to be in the company of you and yours. Thank you for putting me on the ‘ignore’ list.

Just saying...
34
Points
Just saying... 09/14/12 - 03:33 am
2
0
Questionable Justice

I read the article on Bessette along with all the comments posted regarding the plea agreement, sentencing etc., and I have to say I am appalled with all aspects of the case. I agree, the laws need to be revised and stiffer penalties should be issued during sentencing.

We allow our government to spend endless amounts of money, going back and forth with change of pleas, mental this and mental that, appeals that take years on end. Stop wasting time and money. I am not an eye for an eye kind of person, I am not a full-fledged fan of the death penalty, however, if a murder confesses to the crime, to me the case is over with, there is no reasonable doubt, they confessed and the death penalty should be the only sentence. No innocent person would confess to a horrible crime unless they are guilty.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on which side you’re one, the lawyers, judges, and of course the laws, sanction for cases and circumstances such as these, what I would call, inappropriate and sometime unjust sentencing.

To the family of Michele, I wish you nothing but strength to continue on with life. In fighting for what is right it is never easy, but a fight worth fighting, don’t give up !!

Just saying…

lkpomn912
931
Points
lkpomn912 09/14/12 - 11:18 am
2
0
An eye for an eye

An eye for an eye, as a measure of justice may be just what the barbarians of the past needed. A lot of really terrible atrocities were carried out as retribution for insults (like the you-know-whos-its are doing to our embassies overseas today.)
In a world history where whole towns were destroyed by warring tribes. When all the women were raped and their kids taken as slaves was punishment. In times where the men got slaughtered, gutted, drawn and quarted, heads severed: for misdemeanors and felonies.
The newly founded concept of ONLY taking an eye for an eye was pretty shocking. Meaning that if someone punches your lights out you don’t get to chop his arms off.
If the people in the middle east practiced 'an eye for an eye' they would just make a cheap crappy movie about how stupid Christians are. (competition for Bill Mahr and Michael Moore.)

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