Howard Frank, a beggar with a million dollar photo collection, was found dead in the Gowanus Canal in June. An autopsy was blocked, allegedly by Misaskim, without family being contacted. Police and the medical examiner rushed to try to rule the death a suicide. But Frank's death was highly suspicious, as I was the first to report, and the cops and the medical examiner were mishandling the case. And now a senior police official agrees.
Some of you may remember that I broke the story of the suspicious death of Howard Frank in early July. I also reported on the clumsy rush by the police and the Medical Examiner to rule the death a suicide, and cops' failure to interview any of the people who saw Frank in the hours before his death and heard him say that he would soon be murdered.
Frank owed $80,000 to an unnamed person(s) who, Frank told anyone who would listen to him, would kill him that night if Frank didn't pay the money.
Frank had in the days leading up to his death gone to haredi rabbis for help. One rabbi had promised him a sizable amount of money, friends claim, but when Frank went to pick it up, the rabbi gave him only $200.
In the early morning hours of June 28, Howard Frank – who was absolutely terrified of water, who could not swim, and who had to be coaxed and cajoled even to shower – entered the water south of the Gowanus Canal, in Sunset Park, alive. We don't know if he was conscious, if he was pushed in. or if he fell. He was found dead, floating in the canal, at about 9:00 am.
Police and the medical examiner allowed the haredi organization Misaskim to take the body and bury it without an autopsy – and without speaking to Howard Frank's brother Robert, first.
Cops and the medical examiner wanted to rule the death a suicide or an accident, but my first report was picked up by Mary Murphy of PIX 11 News before the Medical Examiner could complete the paperwork. I followed Murphy's report with several more that dealt with police misconduct in the case, including one that reported that police were refusing to have the body exhumed and autopsied.
If Howard Frank was murdered, who killed him?
The New York Post has a long piece on Howard Frank's life and his death in today's paper. Henry Hewes, a man Frank owed at least $70,000 to, told the Post what he thinks could have happened.
…[R]eal estate developer Henry Hewes said he’s been paying Frank’s storage bills for the past five years.
“His agreement with me is that when his collection was sold or when he died, I would be paid,” said Hewes, 62, an Upper East Sider who ran for mayor in 1989 and met Frank through [Howard Frank's business partner and friend, Frank] Pohole, with whom he went to graduate school. He said the money amounted to about $70,000. “I wouldn’t say it’s that much money to me.”…
“From time to time he would talk about revealing secrets about the Orthodox community,” Hewes recalled. “He told me weeks ago he was going to reveal a big scandal — he never got around to it.”…
Pohole made a similar allegation to Murphy last month.
However, Pohole has ties with right wing militia groups, and Hewes recently forced Howard Frank to put the agreement Hewes refers to in writing – something Howard Frank reportedly only did under duress.
Police told Howard's brother Robert that Hewes was not a person who would have killed Howard because the $80,000 Howard Frank owed him was a relatively small amount of money to Hewes – the same argument Hewes made about himself to the Post.
Robert Frank and others who knew Howard told me that Howard really did have dirt on some haredi rabbis, and that he easily could have threatened to reveal it after those rabbis failed to help him.
In response to my reports, the NYPD's lead detective on the case told Frank's brother to stop talking to me.
“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.
But that isn't what a high ranking police official told the New York Post:
…Even a high-ranking police official expressed skepticism about what appeared to be a hurried police investigation.
“How in the world did a body just turn up and they determined it a suicide. Was there a note? The undercurrent here is that everyone is under a tremendous amount of crime [stat] pressure,” the official told The Post.
“There’s almost like a hidden agenda here: ‘The guy committed suicide. The guy was sick in the head. It’s not a homicide.’ That’s what worries me.”…
It should worry you, too.
Exclusive: The Life And Suspicious Death Of Howard Frank.
Exclusive: Police Say $1 Million Beggar’s Death Suicide, Despite Conflicting Evidence And Lack Of An Autopsy.
Exclusive: Medical Examiner, Police Refuse To Exhume Beggar's Body.
A Holy Beggar Dies Again.
The Last Will And Testament Of Howard Frank.
Video: PIX 11 – The Apparent Murder Of Howard Frank.
[Hat Tip: Ruthie.]