Originally published at 7:45 pm CDT 7-17-2012
A Holy Beggar Dies, Again
Howard Frank died under suspicious circumstances in June. Now the NYPD’s bungled investigation is killing him again.
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Friends of Howard Frank, the moderately mentally ill beggar who was found floating in the Gowanus Canal in Red Hook, Brooklyn on Thursday June 28, continue to believe Howard Frank was murdered.
The NYPD doesn’t think so.
But the investigation done by police is shoddy, and its explanation of what they say probably took place the night of June 27 and the early morning of June 28 stretches credulity.
Howard Frank owned a collection of a million-plus television industry photos. Some of these photos are quite valuable, and the collection is estimated to be worth in excess of $1 million.
In the days and hours before his death, Howard Frank told friends, fellow beggars, and synagogue attendees that he was terrified that he would be imminently murdered.
Howard Frank spoke of an $80,000 debt owed to a man named Henry Hewes, a minor New York City political figure who is married into the Dupont family. Howard Frank claimed he had been forced to bequeath $80,000 to to secure that debt only days before.
Hewes apparently met Howard Frank through Frank Pohole, a survivalist with extreme right wing political views and alleged connections to hard right militia groups. Pohole had met Howard Frank a flea market where Howard was selling a small sample of his photos. Soon after, Howard Frank was evicted from his apartment by a haredi slumlord.
When no Jewish family would take him in, Howard accepted an offer from Pohole to stay with him. Pohole’s Brooklyn home has no running water, no electricity and no heat. Howard slept on Pohole’s couch and brushed his teeth and washed his face in the bathroom of a Brooklyn kosher restaurant and at other public semi-public restrooms. Howard did that for the approximately six years he lived with Pohole, until the day before he died.
During the time Howard lived with Pohole, Pohole assumed control over a part of Howard Frank’s photo leasing business. Pohole knew Hewes and arranged the loan, which was used to pay the storage fees for Howard’s photos and to being to digitalize them.
In the hours before his death, Howard Frank told people that rabbis had promised to help him pay off an $80,000 debt but hadn’t followed through. And now, “I’m a dead man,” Howard Frank told them, “they’re going to kill me.”
Here is where the story gets murky.
Howard Frank may have gone to a loan shark or to some other illegal private source to get money to pay Hewes. Or he may have been pressured by Hewes and Pohole to repay the money and suffered consequences from one or both when he couldn’t.
Police stress that Hewes is not someone they think would have killed Howard. He has too much money to kill someone over a relatively small amount like $80,000, a police detective allegedly told Howard Frank’s brother on Sunday.
Hewes allegedly told police that he agreed to keep paying the photos’ storage fees as long as Howard agreed to bequeath him $80,000. to cover those payments. And Hewes allegedly claimed that Howard willingly did so. Police told Howard’s brother that they believe Hewes.
Police also told Howard’s brother that Howard was probably delusional, that he must have made up the story about having to repay the $80,000 immediately or the people he owed money to were going to kill him.
No final ruling, a NYPD detective told Robert Frank on Sunday. But it looks like suicide.
Was Howard drugged, his brother asked?
“No. It doesn’t look like he was drugged,” the NYPD detective said.
Robert Frank asked about getting an autopsy done to rule out drugs, poison and other possible modes of death.
We can’t do that, the NYPD detective said, it’s against the law.
Because there were no external signs of foul play, New York State law forbids it, and a moderately mentally beggar claiming that he was going to be killed because of a loan he couldn’t repay wasn’t enough to justify exhumation and an autopsy, police told Robert Frank.
Even when the mentally ill beggar has a million dollar asset and people who seem to want pieces of it?
Yes, the NYPD detective told Robert Frank. Even then.
But his friends who heard him say he was going to be murdered, probably that night. Did you talk to them?
A lot of people are calling me, NYPD Detective Maza allegedly told Robert Frank, and saying he didn’t commit suicide, complaining that these people – who include at least one shop owner, haredim who knew Howard from the synagogues he begged at, and some of his fellow beggars – just didn’t seem to understand that Howard had probably made up the threats against him.
And then Detective Maza allegedly told Robert Frank something else. Don’t talk to the media, especially to FailedMessiah, about your brother’s death.
“To honor Howard’s death and his memory, you shouldn’t talk to any media like FailedMessiah because they’re blowing it up out of proportion,” Detective Maza allegedly told Robert Frank.
And what do police have to say about allowing Misaskim to control what happened with Howard Frank’s body, blocking an autopsy and perhaps even keeping Howard Frank’s death secret from his brother and other family members?
And what do they say about deciding the cause of death of man who told so many people that he would be imminently murdered without doing an autopsy?
You read the answer to that question above. It didn’t look like murder so it probably isn’t murder.
And Howard Frank’s fear of being imminently murdered, a fear he did not have until the days before he died?
And how do police know that?
Because it makes more sense to them than murder.
Several people close to Howard Frank had not been contacted by police as of Sunday night. Others only spoke with police because they took the initiative to call the NYPD – cops never tried to contact them.
Howard Frank’s will names three people as beneficiaries. One is a cousin who is also the estate’s executor. Police refused to tell Howard’s brother the names of the other two beneficiaries, but they did tell him that he isn’t one of them.
Was Howard Frank murdered?
I don’t know.
But I do know that the NYPD has behaved shamefully, and that Misaskim may have obstructed justice and almost certainly helped – intentionally or not – cover up that crime if it indeed took place.
Howard Frank died once and the NYPD’s misbehavior is killing him a second time.
Howard Frank was only an eccentric beggar. And who in the NYPD would have thought that anyone would even care that he was gone?
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