On April 23, 2015, at around 10:25 PM in downtown Vancouver, WA, an intoxicated 18 year-old male had a chance encounter and a brief verbal dispute with a 53-year old stranger over a request to “bum a cigarette.” The argument evolved into a violent physical act as the 18-year old male, Spencer Austin Pell, “snapped” according to his confession in a January 27th, 2016 recorded interview at Vancouver’s West Precinct.
22-year-old Rodney Taylor Franck was with Spencer Pell that night. Franck, who had continued walking when the verbal dispute over the cigarette began, turned around to see a chase ensue. After a momentary pause, he ran nearly three blocks after the two men and witnessed the initial blow to the victim that resulted in a fracture to Pell’s hand. Franck reached the scene of the assault as Pell was pummeling the 53-year old man on the ground with violent kicks to his head and body. Rodney Franck pulled Spencer Pell off the victim and attempted to offer aid to the man who was covered in blood and breathing, but unresponsive.
Unknown to Spencer Pell or Rodney Franck until 8 months later, the man Pell attacked was hospitalized and remained in a coma on life support. Meanwhile, following the attack, VPD Major Crimes Unit detectives dropped the ball by failing to conduct a thorough investigation. Key evidence was not gathered or preserved, and failure to conduct necessary interviews resulted in loss of critical information needed to properly solve the case.
In January of 2016, circumstantial leads led MCU Detective Neil Martin to believe Rodney Franck was responsible for the April 2015 assault. After Franck’s arrest, Spencer Pell, who had taken full responsibility for the assault in conversations with multiple people back in April of 2015, acknowledged to friends and family his feelings of guilt about someone else taking the blame for a crime he committed. On January 27th, 2016, Spencer Pell turned himself in at the Vancouver Police Department and confessed to the violent assault that occurred in downtown Vancouver in 2015.
By the date of Spencer Pell’s confession, Detective Martin and Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu had already manufactured a case against Rodney Franck. Vu recognized an opportunity that would allow him to cover up prior missteps and secure two convictions for the crime. Through misconduct and omission, the prosecutor chose to disregard Pell’s confession and offer him incentives through a cooperation agreement to change his story and testify against Rodney Franck, an innocent man.
Following is a link to the official VPD transcript of Spencer Pell’s January 2016 voluntary confession:
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