THE DEATH OF FRANK VALDES
by Carol Strick
Early in the morning of July 17, 1999, nine guards at Florida State Prison in Starke, Florida, entered the cell of Frank Valdes. Trying to justify their behavior, they were screaming, "Where's the knife?"
Armed with stun-guns, pepper, mace, and shields, they took turns beating him and stomping on his body with their boots, crushing every bone in his body and destroying every organ.
Nobody should die like Frank did. Witnesses heard him moan like a wounded animal. They could tell, with his last breaths, that his lungs had collapsed. One prisoner, looking out from the bottom of his door, saw an unidentified object. He realized after staring at it that it was Frank's bloody head. After he was dead, they tried to clean him and up and put him on a food cart. At about 10.00 a.m., the guards passed the visiting park on the way to the medical area. Prisoners and visitors saw a corpse with his eyes rolled back. The Medical Dept. said that he didn't need medical care.
Two prisoners, one after the other, spent a day removing the blood from Frank's cell with Clorox.
Frank was a good candidate for what had taken place. He was poor, Latino, abused, and unwanted. His mother had tried to abort him and his father had little to do with him. By the time he was 15, Frank was in a youth facility. By 16, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Frank was a lonely person, but he had a good heart. He could be a loyal friend even though he heard voices.
In 1987, he was released from a halfway house in Miami where he met his friend Billy. When they left the house, Frank was free and Billy was on life probation. Billy asked Frank to help him free a friend who would be traveling in a van with 2 guards from a nearby prison on the way to a cancer doctor in West Palm Beach. Frank admired Billy and agreed to help him. The two were strung out on booze and cocaine when the van appeared. According to the newspaper, they were in the parking lot of the doctor's office. One of the guards came out with the keys, pretending to open the back door. The other guard ran away. Instead of opening the door, the guard threw the keys in the bushes. Billy became enraged. The guard was shot three times and died. Both Billy and Frank were found guilty and sentenced to death.
Both men were arrested. Frank was offered a plea deal for 25 years, but he refused to testify against Billy. While he was in the county jail in West Palm Beach, awaiting sentence, guards from Florida State Prison sent him a message that they would beat him and put him on X-wing.
When the media went into F.S.P. to see Frank's cell, they saw another one. The prison didn't want the media to see where Frank died.
The day before Frank's death, he spent the whole day screaming for help for the prisoners from the Hamilton, C.I. Seven Black prisoners who were accused of leading a riot at Hamilton, C. I., were brought to FSP. The prisoners were severely beaten. One prisoner, Willie Mathews, who was falsely accused of shoving a pregnant guard in the riot, was put into a burlap bag and beaten. Guards put a rope around his neck and beat him.
They put the prisoners from Hamilton in dunce caps and photographed them. They had Willie walk down the steps in his dunce cap and threatened to beat him if the hat fell off. When it did, they broke his jaw. Guards used baseball bats and batons to beat the prisoners. The guards refused medical aid for the victims. Willie was writhing in pain from his broken jaw. Frank was screaming for help. A sergeant passed and asked Willie what was going on. And threatening to call the media. "These guys are hurt," he yelled.
A month before, guards had tried to hang Frank in the bathroom with a sheet. People had called the prison and called the D.O.C. in Tallahassee to say that Frank's life was in danger. Nobody paid any attention.
A guard named Montez Lucas was working on the tier that day. He said to Frank, "Shut up or I'll get your ass." Frank kept yelling for help for the guys from Hamilton. Lucas went to the phone and called the sergeant for help. He lied that Frank had threatened to kill him. Lucas opened Frank's door and cuffed him. He entered the cell with a guard named Griffith.
At a subsequent trial against Lucas by the state, Griffith testified that after cuffing Frank, Lucas hit him in the face. Frank didn't move so he kept hitting him until he collapsed on his bed/slab. Later, after he died, guards tried to say that he killed himself by constantly jumping off his bed. The slab is attached to the floor. Griffith testified that with the last punch he heard Frank's jaw crack. He was eventually found not guilty because "it couldn't be proved exactly when the jaw was broken" (if you can believe this logic!)
A prisoner witness testified that he heard Lucas say to Griffith, "Okay, his number is up. We'll get him in the morning." The jury at Lucas' trial asked Griffith what Lucas had meant by that. He said that it meant "We'll kill him. "
Very early the next morning, the guards killed Frank. The witnesses were sent to other prisons, including prisons in California, Virginia, and Florida.
The state would like to keep the trial of the guards in this inbred town, home of 9 prisons. The guards do not want their reports of Frank's death to be used as evidence. They had taken their photos of the prisoners from Hamilton in dunce caps home, along with their log of Frank's murder. An inspector general had to go to their homes to retrieve the evidence.
Willie Mathews was eventually taken to Shands Hospital where they replaced his jaw with a steel plate. He is at Charlotte C.I. trying to get follow up treatment ordered by Shands without any luck.
Wanda Valdes, Frank's widow, was asked how much she wanted to settle the case. She wants a trial so what happened to Frank will not happen to anyone else.
If there is any purpose to the life of Frank Valdes, who, at 36 years old, was beaten to death by guards, it is that the guards who murdered him be found guilty and prison conditions at F. S. P. and everywhere be changed.
The state cannot keep making believe that cruelty, brutality, and sadism can continue under the guise of "justice."
There is no way that there can be a fair trial in Bradford County, the home of 9 prisons. Every person in the county is directly or indirectly employed by the DOC. A few nonaligned souls would be intimidated by guards to make a decision in Frank's behalf.
Was there a purpose to the life of Frank Valdes? He will not have died in vain if the guards who murdered him are found guilty and conditions at Florida State Prison and all prisons change drastically.
Demand that the trial be moved out of Starke. Write to Judge Larry Turner, Bradford County Courthouse, P.O. Drawer B, Starke, FL 32091.The state cannot keep making believe that cruelty, brutality and sadism are justice.
Demand that the trial be moved out of Starke and the prison belt.
Write to Judge Larry Turner
Bradford County Courthouse
P.O. Drawer B
Starke, FL 32091
X-wing must also be closed. Being there is cruel and unusual treatment. It is sensory deprivation. The cells consist of steel rooms without a window. There is no way to look out except through an opening at the bottom of the door.
Write to Gov. Jeb Bush, Office of the Governor, The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001.
Demand that the X-wing at FSP, Starke, be closed.
from the DOC