The courtroom was dead silent. Franklin Gillick, Jr. sat with his head buried in his hands. He glanced over at the somberly, stoic faces of the jury, and realized that there was little hope of exoneration. He would, more than likely, be found guilty as charged. And he was guilty, caught red handed, so to speak. Witness after witness testified that they had seen him in the red and black lumberjack shirt he always seemed to wear, playing the drums in a Polka band at The Logger’s Tavern that Saturday night in June of 1989. And yet, he couldn’t remember a thing about that night.
Gillick was a creature of habit. He lived alone in a small, one room cabin on the edge of the woods, just outside of Ullswater. He enjoyed the solitude, and had embraced the self imposed isolation in order to focus on his work as a forensic taxidermist. Every Saturday night however, without exception, he headed into town for a few beers at The Logger’s Tavern, and if he was drunk enough, he would sit in for a set or two playing the drums in the Doctor Debauchery & Professor Phukett Psychedelic Psound Band. He was actually a fairly good drummer, but his inability to handle alcohol, and his passion for flannel had catapulted him into what the media had named the crime of the century. In a strange set of circumstances in which all of the celestial bodies managed to align themselves in perfect synchronicity, Gillick had become nothing more than a pawn in a game of cat and mouse with the universe.
Franklin Gillick, Jr. was a friend of mine. We grew up together doing all of that Tom Sawyer crap. When we were 11 or 12 years old, Franklin and his family moved up north, and we lost touch with each other. Thirty five years later, I was now hearing about him on the nightly news, charged and standing trial for the brutal murder of a young woman.
Reports indicated that on that fateful night Gillick got into his ten year old red Ford F150 and headed toward Ullswater on his way to The Logger’s Tavern at about 7:30. He stopped at Farrell’s General Store where he picked up supplies for his taxidermy work that included a set of precision knives, some heavy duty thread, and some cotton wadding. Hank Farrell, when questioned by police stated that Gillick seemed a “little off” that night and left without paying, telling Farrell to put it on his account, which was quite unusual. Gillick continued on his way to the tavern, and stopped to pick up a young woman who was hitchhiking along Highway 141 on her way to Diamond’s Golf & Vacation Resort. Gillick told police in his statement that the woman was hurt, and was bleeding. He helped stop the bleeding and then he dropped the young woman off at the junction of Highway 141 and Old Parry Sound Road, a few minutes walk from the resort. According to the staff working at the resort that night, the young woman, who worked as a housekeeper at the resort, never arrived. About an hour or so later, some counsellors from a nearby summer camp on their way back from a day off, spotted the body of the young woman in a ditch at the side of Highway 141 just past Old Parry Sound Road. They contacted the police, and reported that they had seen an older red Ford F150 driving west along the highway shortly before they discovered the body.
Gillick arrived at The Logger’s Tavern and sat in his usual seat at his usual table and ordered a Pabst. “Looks like blood all over your hands.”, the barmaid said. “Are you alright?”.
Gillick looked at his hands. “I’m fine.”, he replied, as he stood to go wash his hands. “Damn hitchhiker I picked up was bleeding all over the truck.”
As the Psychedelic Psound Band took to the stage, and Gillick took his place behind the drum kit, the police had determined that foul play was involved in the death of the young woman found at the side of Highway 141. The discovery of a cut throat, and a blood soaked precision knife located nearby, set off the search for a killer. Detective Sgt. Rollie Whitman of the Ontario Provincial Police detachment in Bracebridge, was assigned to lead the investigation. All they had to go on so far was the precision knife, and an older model, red Ford F150 which witness had seen driving near the scene when the body was discovered. All of the stores in the vicinity were canvassed, and Hank Farrell reported that he had sold a set of the knives recently. The older model, red Ford F150 was going to be a little more difficult, as Gillick had never registered it. But they had Gillick’s name, and when they arrived at of the cabin fortune smiled on them, as the truck they were looking for was parked in front. There were blood stains on the passenger seat and arm rest. There was blood soaked cotton wading on the passenger side floor, and the precision knife set, which the police found in the cabin was missing one knife.
When questioned by the police, Gillick stated repeatedly that he couldn’t remember anything about that night. He acknowledged purchasing the knives and cotton wadding, and he remembers being at The Logger’s Tavern, but that was all. In his defence, he had been drinking and he was sure that Doctor Debauchery had slipped him a yellow jacket. The forensics on the blood in his truck and the knife found at the crime scene were identified as those belonging to the young woman who was found dead in the ditch on the side of Highway 141. Gillick was arrested, charged with first degree murder and held in custody, without bail. With the help of some friends, Gillick retained the services of the preeminent Criminal Attorney in the country, G. Lawrence Roberts lll. Roberts was 26 and 1 in his career,. In his book, ‘Top Dog In A Courtroom Of Pussies’, he attributes the one loss to a paranoid schizophrenic judge whose advances at a Christmas party he had rejected.
Gillick had always professed his innocence, but as the trial unfolded he began doubting himself. For the first time in his life, he thought that he may have been capable of killing that young woman. The Crown presented its case on the grounds that Gillick was driving around looking for some unsuspecting woman and, after picking the hitchhiker up, had made advances toward her. When she rejected those advances, he killed her. A cold blooded attack fuelled by anger and self loathing.
As the court room filled with media, friends, and inquisitive locals, the jury was set to deliver its verdict. Gillick was shaking. While he had been preparing for the worst for weeks, he was terrified of it actually occurring. Gillick stood beside his lawyer as the foreman read out the verdict. “Guilty as charged.”, was all Gillick heard. Guilty as charged. Those words kept playing over and over again in his head as he stood there as if he had been frozen in that moment.
He was sentenced to life in prison, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. His appeals were repeatedly denied, and Gillick resigned himself to serving out his sentence in peace. In a letter to his sister, he spoke of finding God, which in turn brought him peace and acceptance. After serving 25 years, Gillick met with the Parole Board, and was granted his freedom. Nine days before he was scheduled to be released, Franklin Gillick, Jr., was stabbed to death in the exercise yard of Collins Bay Correctional Facility.
After the trial, there was no further mention of Franklin Gillick, Jr. There was no mention of his death in prison, or of new evidence which seemed to prove that he was wrongfully convicted. DNA evidence uncovered that the fibres and hair found on the young woman’s person were not Gillick’s, but belonged to a much younger man. The police believe that the camp counselor returning from his day off, was the killer. The young woman was first attacked before Gillick picked her up, and was bleeding in his truck from minor wounds. After he dropped her off, the counsellor attacked her again, this time slitting her throat. It was all circumstantial evidence that convicted Gillick, and cost him his life, and no one seemed to give a damn. Absolutely no one.