Frank Dayton’s mugging was only one of the similar attacks that occurred the night John Hartman was killed. However, the beating and mugging of Frank Dayton is of incredible importance because of the part it played in the police theory of the murder and the part it played in trials.
In addition to being charged and convicted of the murder of John Hartman, the Fairbanks Four were also convicted of mugging Frank Dayton, primarily off the eyewitness testimony one man provided in exchange for leniency in the serious criminal charges he was facing. It was the only testimony that put the four together that night, or indicated that they were engaged in violent behavior of any kind. That testimony was made by Arlo Olson, and has since been recanted. We hope to post Arlo’s story, and are hoping that he will be able to tell it himself for us and keep with our focus on letting people speak for themselves. Either way, we will discuss Arlo Olsen’s role in this case at length very soon. For now, we will focus on Frank Dayton’s version of events. It is impossible to overstate how important Frank Dayton’s mugging became in the murder trial. In this post we will describe the mugging that Frank Dayton reported to the police and testified to in trial.
Frank was at the the wedding reception at the Eagle’s Hall along with hundreds of other guests. Sometime around 1am, Frank decided to walk a few block over to meet a friend. Much like Hartman, he was walking alone in the cold late night. He was soon assaulted in a disturbingly similar way.
Frank was in the 300 block of 1st Avenue when he heard a car rolling up behind him. He assumed that the car was slowed to a crawl so that it could pull into the parking lot he had just passed. When he turned around he saw the car. He described it as a four door light colored car (white, or a very light tan or gray). The assailants ran up to him and he was immediately tripped and knocked to the ground. His elbow, knees, and face smashed into the cold pavement. He made a movement to stand, but one of the attackers slammed their foot down on his right hand. Another stood over him. They kicked him in the side and back. As he lay with his face pressed into the pavement he saw the show standing on his hand – a white high top.
The attackers assaulted him primarily by kicking him while he was on the ground. They reached into his pocket and took the $20 he had. They then ran to their car and sped off, disappearing as quickly as they had appeared.
Frank was not able to describe his attackers, it had all happened fast and in the dark, and he was held face-down to the ground during the beating. He was able to see and remember the car well, which he described as a “good-sized” light four-door sedan. Frank even drew a picture of the car for the police, which is pictured above.
In the police theory, they surmised that the Fairbanks Four – Kevin, Eugene, Marvin, and George – had gone on a violent beating spree that night attacking people at random. Indeed, there is a distressing theme in the violence that occurred that night. Three others reported nearly identical attacks which you can read about HERE. In those attacks the eyewitnesses or victims also described a light four-door sedan as the car, but the others were able to provide a better description of their attackers, and across the board they ALL described four young African American men in that light car, getting victims to the ground, kicking them, and speeding away.
Frank Dayton was wearing a leather jacket than night. One that likely had the palm and fingerprints of his attackers on it – Frank offered it up to be tested, and the investigators declined to take it. There are a lot of opportunities lost in this case – Frank Dayton’s jacket was one of them, but much like Conan’s pager (read about that HERE), yet another opportunity to collect that evidence was passed up. It is a theme in the case that is disturbing to say the least.
After the beating, Frank Dayton returned to the Eagle’s Hall, where his sister in law Susan Paskavan called 911. The call is logged at 1:34am, roughly the same time that the assault on John Hartman ended.
Prosecution and police relied on a theory that the Fairbanks Four beat and mugged Frank Dayton, then drove the several blocks to 9th and Barnette and fatally beat John Hartman in a similar way. There are many holes in that theory, but here are some of the most important ones:
* Frank Dayton’s attackers drove a light full-sized four-door sedan, Marvin drove a bright blue two-door tiny car.
* Marvin was at the Eagle’s Hall when Frank Dayton returned and 911 was called. Gary Edwin testified that he KNOWS Marvin was there at the time because as Gary was leaning over the injured Frank Dayton, Marvin approached him and said, “What happened?” Gary responded that he didn’t know and was trying to figure it out himself.
* None of the four were wearing or owned white high-tops. The shoes that the police collected from the men were listed as brown boots, black boots, and black Nike Air tennis shoes. NO white high-tops. Remember that George, Kevin, and Eugene were all arrested in the shoes they had worn. Marvin’s house was searched and all of his shoes were taken.
* Frank Dayton was Eugene Vent’s cousin. It seems unlikely that Eugene, a person with no history of violence, would attack anyone, but especially his own family. It also seems unlikely that Frank Dayton would not recognize his young relative. It also seems unlikely that Frank Dayton would not be able to identify the suspects as Native given his level of familiarity with a Koyukon Athabascan accent.
* Frank Dayton himself believes the Fairbanks Four are innocent, and KNOWS that they are not his attackers. He said this on the stand, and has said it for the last 14 years.
Despite all of this, the Four would eventually be tried for the mugging of Frank Dayton and the murder of John Hartman in one trial. Juror’s would later say that Arlo Olson’s testimony, which convinced them that the Fairbanks Four were guilty of mugging Frank Dayton, was one of the biggest factors in them finding the men guilty.