The Murder Of Frances Radecop

In 1944, West Seattle Junction was a lively middle-class neighborhood, bustling with workers employed in nearby airplane factories and shipyards. 40th Avenue S.W. was home to a police patrolman, public school teacher and private detective. Parents felt safe when children played in the streets unsupervised until dusk. People didn't lock their doors. Though World War II served as a grim backdrop, suburban life in the Washington city was more or less peaceful.

In the last house on the block lived Cora Radecop and her husband Adry, a pharmacist at the Save-More drug store. They had two daughters - Eudora and Frances. Frances 'Franny' Radecop was an outgoing young woman who excelled at music and acting. She was the President of the Junior Epworth League of the SeaView Methodist Church and served as editor of her high school yearbook. 

Both Frances and her sister were enthuasistic members of the Seattle Skating Club, appearing in club carnivals alongside guest stars like Vivi-Anne Hultén and Gene Theslof. They spent hours training alongside Karol and Peter Kennedy, who went on to be Olympic Medallists and World Champions. Frances made it as far as competing at the Washington State and Pacific Coast Championships and passed her Silver Dance test. When she was offered a music scholarship to Washington State University in her final year of high school, figure skating took the back burner. Many felt that she really could have made something of herself as a skater had she not have made music her number one priority.

Frances Radecop with representatives of West Seattle High School's honors society and cast members of her school play, 1944

Just two months after Frances graduated from high school, her family's world was turned upside down. At six in the evening on August 25, 1944, Cora returned home from a shopping trip and discovered Frances' blood-splattered body in the living room, surrounded by scattered sheet music and an overturned music stand. She had been strangled and beaten on the head with a blunt instrument. The coroner's report found no evidence of rape and police expressed the view that Frances had been murdered by "someone she knew well". Neighbours reported seeing a young man enter the home several hours before Frances' body was discovered.

A week later, Seattle cops grappled with another murder mystery. Twenty two year old Wyona Saikley, a War worker at the Boeing Aircraft Plant, and her husband were viciously attacked with a knife. The woman died of her wounds. Shortly thereafter, fourteen year old George Anderson found his mother Marguerite lying dead in her bed. In what was deemed as 'the pop bottle murder', Marguerite Anderson had been attacked viciously with a glass soda bottle. The violent attacks, which all occurred in the span of less than a week, led fear-mongering reporters to write of a "murder wave" in Seattle, even though police steadfastly believed none of the murders were connected.

Police interviewed a number of people in connection to Frances' case, but they were all released. The case went cold. Eight years later, a twenty three year old motor-lorry driver named Carl Jones confessed to killing Frances when he was undergoing a lie detector test in connection with the theft of an outboard motor. In a statement to Police Chief J.E. Lawrence, Carl Jones claimed that when we was fifteen, Frances had happened upon him ransacking a bedroom in her home. She recognized him as a neighbour and threatened to "tell on him". He choked her and bludgeoned her with a baseball bat, while she pleaded for her life. Carl Jones was required by detectives to re-enact how the killing happened by revisiting the Radecop family home. Before he entered, Frances' father approached him and said, "Carl, I'm sorry." Jones replied, "I'll do anything I can to make it up to you in any way that I can."

Just a year before Frances Radecop's murder was solved, the city of Seattle played host to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships for the very first time. If fate had taken her in a different direction, she may well have been one of the competitors that year. We'll never know.

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