Another Motive: The Killing of Frank Valdes

By Kay Lee

In July of 1999, a prisoner named Frank Valdes threatened to tell authorities about the daily beatings of five prisoners, now known as "The Hamilton Five" who had been accused of leading a hunger strike at Hamilton CI, and were sent to Florida State Prison to be punished so there would never be another hunger strike in Florida's prisons again.

The day Valdes became livid with rage with hearing the ongoing beatings and threatened to expose the cover up, one guard broke his jaw and left him laying on the floor all night (that guard was since found innocent of punishable wrongdoing in a travesty of trial). The next morning, Valdes was awakened, handcuffed and viciously beaten to death by nine prison guards. All the guards involved said he did it to himself.

On October 12th a handful of those guards went on trial in the same little community where the beating took place and where the guard was found innocent for breaking Frank Valdes' jaw.

Our tireless efforts to get the trial moved to a new location was fruitless. Friends, families, and neighbors of the guards will make up the jury pool. They seem to have the support of the town, the county, the guard's union, expensive lawyers, and it seems like many of the DOC staff want to see them go free because they are family and friends. The odds are greatly against justice and without public support and outcry, it is possible that no one will own this murder. A clear message will be sent to guards everywhere: In Florida you can do whatever you want to a prisoner, including murder, and no one ever has to pay.

I am urging everyone who can possibly make it to Bradford County during the trial in North Florida to try to be there. I certainly feel compelled to be in attendance. The Valdes Murder made me jump on a Greyhound bus two years ago and travel 17 hours from Key West to Starke to begin vigils against unprofessional guards and staff who didn't care. His murder inspired Making The Walls Transparent, where we've attempted to show that the brutality is not an isolated incident. His death gave many prisoners the strength and desperation to go public, including Gary WaId.

I feel such an urgency to make an appearance on the first day. I want to hold a sign outside that says, "FRANK VALDES IS DEAD AND THE BRUTALITY CONTINUES. SOMEBODY HAS TO OWN THESE CRIMES!" I should have taken off walking a couple of weeks ago if I had just thought of it. It might have inspired many more to attend. Darn that was a missed opportunity!

I am presenting the following plea with the understanding that I don't want you to feel like I'm putting anyone on the spot. Just let me ask, and if you will, please feel comfortable even if you are not inclined or able to help.

Although Lindy Shelby and Wanda Valdes don't know I am about to send out this plea, I have to do whatever I can to at least get Wanda there, and hopefully there's enough support to get all of us there to stand with her.

I had a ride arranged with a prisoner's mother, but she has been called to a meeting and won't be able to make the opening of the trial on October 12th. I am now trying to arrange for transportation, housing, and meals for Lindy Shelby, Wanda Valdes (the murdered prisoner's wife), and I to be in town the night of the 11th and at the Bradford County Courthouse on the first day of the Valdes trial to represent MAKING THE WALLS TRANSPARENT.

I'm trying to raise maybe $150 to $200 for travel, a motel room we can share on the 11th and/or 12th, and food. My daughter has a car here in Titusville and is willing to drive me if we have gas. Lindy has a car in St. Pete if she has gas. One of us can pick up Wanda if her car won't make it and we have money for gas.

I'm always reluctant to lean on anyone, but if you have help to offer, please contact one of us: I have a few Making The Walls Transparent T-Shirts I can exchange for donations.

Kay Lee Making the Walls Transparent


TRUE DEMOCRACY Summer 2002 Copyright © 2002 by News Source, inc.