One of two men who beat a Vancouver man into a coma that lasted more than a year before he succumbed to his injuries was sentenced Friday in Clark County Superior Court to 8 1/2 years in prison.
Rodney T. Franck’s guilty plea to second-degree manslaughter brings the nearly 5-year-old case to a close. But the daughter of 55-year-old Chris Brewster says it’s still “beyond thinkable for our family to be here without our dad by our side.”
Lela Brewster told the court her dad was “honest to a fault and loyal as can be.” He was the kind of person who would give his coat to someone in need, she said, even “the person who beat the life out of him.”
“My dad had the blood of a hero, something you will never comprehend because you’re a destructive coward,” she told the defendant.
Chris Brewster died June 7, 2016, more than a year after the April 2015 beating by Franck and co-defendant Spencer A. Pell, 23, in Vancouver’s Hough neighborhood. He suffered blunt-force head trauma and never regained consciousness.
The deadly beating apparently began as an argument between Brewster and the men over a cigarette, according to court records.
Franck, 26, was facing second-degree felony murder; the charge was added after Brewster’s death. Pell was not charged with murder, however, and was subpoenaed to testify against Franck if his case went to trial. Pell pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree assault in 2017 and was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.
Shortly after 11:30 p.m. April 23, 2015, witnesses near West 21st and Columbia streets saw two men kicking another man who was lying in the road. The assailants fled before Vancouver police arrived, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Police found the men, identified as Franck and Pell, based on descriptions provided by witnesses, about a mile away. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said Friday that they were both highly intoxicated at the time. Both men denied being involved in the beating.
Although Franck reportedly had bruising, cuts to his right eye and blood on his clothing, police didn’t initially arrest him. He was instead booked into the Clark County Jail on an unrelated charge. While in custody, detectives seized his clothing and tested the blood stains. They were found to be a match to Brewster’s DNA, court records say.
Franck also made self-incriminating statements during a phone call made from the jail on Jan. 5, 2016, according to a separate probable cause affidavit filed in the case.
Then, on Jan. 26, 2016, Pell came forward to talk to police.
Both men said they didn’t recognize Brewster from a photograph and said that they were intoxicated that night. However, Pell said he argued with a man over a cigarette and then the man punched him. Pell hit him back, but then he “blacked out,” he said, and didn’t remember kicking Brewster, an affidavit states.
Brewster was so badly beaten, Vu said, that his face was unrecognizable.
Lela Brewster said her dad had looked forward to walking her down the aisle and being a grandpa. But those things were taken from him. Instead, she held her wedding ceremony in his hospital room. He held his newborn grandchild only once, she said.
When it was his turn to address the court, Franck said, “There is a lot I want to say, but I know nothing I say at this point will help the family.” He added that he’s sorry for what happened.
He faced a standard sentencing range of 77 to 102 months in prison. Both the prosecution and defense recommended a sentence of 96 months, or eight years, to run concurrent with his sentence from a case in Pacific County.
In handing down his sentence, Judge John Fairgrieve acknowledged the loss felt by multiple generations of a family, as well as the community. He sentenced Franck to the maximum under the sentencing range — 102 months.
After sentencing, Lela Brewster said she was pleased that the judge took to heart what she shared about her dad.
“The courtroom could have been full of people who loved him like family,” she said. “But it’s been wearing down on us for years, and not all of us still have the strength to stand here today.”