"He loved her to death"

Frank and Nancy's brief marriage was storym, to say the least.

Herb Trammell heard the shotgun blasts just after dawn on August 1, 1989. He looked out his bedroom window in time to see an orange car with wood side panels speeding past. He ran half-dressed out of his home in a middle-class east Phoenix neighborhood and looked around.

Trammell saw Frank Wade writhing in agony on the front lawn next door. Frank was more than a neighbor to Trammell. The two were Harley-riding, beer-sucking sidekicks who worked together at Allied-Signal Aerospace Company.

Frank had taken three 12-gauge blasts to his torso and another to his left thigh as he mowed his lawn in the early-morning light. Remarkably, the six-foot-six, 250-pounder was still conscious.

"He had all these big holes in him and he was really hurting," Trammell says. "I asked him who done it and he told me. He said it was Mike, his wife's daughter's boyfriend. He asked me if he was gonna die. I said, `No, man, you're too ornery to die.' I tried to comfort him. But it was real bad."

An emergency rescue team rushed Frank Wade to Maricopa County Medical Center, where he died within the hour. He was 49.

Detectives at the murder scene on East Almeria Street scoured the area for clues. They interviewed a bicyclist who'd also heard the shots and seen the orange car with wood panels. Two neighbors similarly identified the car.

The cops found a note tacked to Frank's front door.
"Nancy," it read in part, "I want no more trouble from you in any way. We will split what we had bought together. You go your way and I will go mine. P.S. I changed the lock. So please call."


In the days after the murder, suspect Peter Bernard Fraser purchased about $10,000 worth of merchandise at Phoenix stores. He bought guns, a gold ring, a rebuilt car engine, a police scanner and a fancy pool cue.

Fraser bought the merchandise with 42 blank checks issued to Frank and Nancy Wade. He signed the checks with Frank's name and presented one of Frank's check-guarantee cards. If anyone asked for more identification, Fraser pulled out an Arizona driver's license with his picture, but in Frank's name. He obtained the new license from the Department of Motor Vehicles the day after Frank's murder with a phony birth certificate.

Obtaining fake identification was easy for Fraser. He had used at least 27 aliases during his first 27 years. Frank Wade called him "Mike," but he mainly used the first names "Maverick" and "Matt."

Fraser sold several of his newly purchased guns to Valley pawn shops for cash. He and his girlfriend Renee left Phoenix about five days after Frank Wade's murder.

The couple stayed on the lam for 14 months. Acting on a tip, FBI agents arrested Fraser at the Raleigh, North Carolina, airport on October 11, 1990. Fraser, Renee and their baby boy had been living for months near Raleigh.

Pete Fraser is now serving a 46-year prison sentence for first-degree murder and theft. He won't be eligible for parole for 39 years. Fraser remains the only person charged and convicted in the Frank Wade case. That nags at the detectives who investigated it.

"Peter Fraser never would have gone over to kill that man by himself," says former Phoenix homicide detective Armando Saldate, now a county constable. "Con men like him usually draw the line. Something made Peter go over the line and kill. I think that something was Nancy Wade."


Frank Wade was a mountain of a man with a wild beard that matched his extroverted nature. "A man's man," is how more than one person--male and female--summed him up. As cliche as that depiction is, it seems to have been true. His world revolved around traditional guy-type things--fishing derbies, rodeos, poker and camping. He spent many evenings after work knocking down beers at friendly east Phoenix pubs such as Draw 10, the Wanderin and the Annex.

Frank was as loyal to his friends as an old hound, and they reciprocated. Some pals still visit the north Phoenix cemetery where he's buried. They'll open a cold can of Bud and place it atop his grave. Then they'll sit until the wee hours hoisting brews in tribute to their fallen friend.

"We loved the guy," says Arley Capps, one of the mourners. "I get shook up when I think about what happened to him. At least he lived a lot in his life."

Born into a blue-collar Ohio family, Frank Wade grew up to become a lanky high schooler with some promise as a basketball player. But his future first wife's teenage pregnancy forced him into marriage at 17.

Frank and his first wife would have five children together. His in-laws set him up in a little junkyard business that did well enough. After this stab at fidelity, however, Frank met a female bartender at a tavern.

Frank and Joan became an item. They married, and in the mid-1960s they left Ohio for Phoenix with her two children. Frank worked several jobs until Allied-Signal hired him as an apprentice in 1971. He worked his way up to senior engineer for the big firm. The company paid him well--$927 a week at the time of his death--as a mechanical troubleshooter.

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