By Calvin Palmer
A man who skipped parole in 1972, after serving just 15 years in prison for the murder of a Montana driver who picked him up during a blizzard, has been found running a wedding chapel in Arizona.
Frank Dryman, 78, was tracked down by a private investigator hired by the victim’s grandson. He had assumed the identity of Victor H. Houston.
Dryman is awaiting extradition proceedings after his arrest by Pinal County sheriff’s office yesterday.
He was hitchhiking during a blizzard in 1951 when Clarence Pellett stopped to offer him a ride near Shelby, a small town in northern Montana.
Pellett, who ran a small cafe, was shot seven times in the back as he tried to run away. Drayman, 19 at the time, drove to Canada where he was eventually arrested.
After a quick trial in 1955, Dryman was sentenced to death by hanging but his case became the focus of a debate on capital punishment and his sentence was commuted to life in prison.
In 1969, he was paroled after serving 15 years of his sentence. The Montana Department of Corrections said that today, the soonest a person convicted of murder could gain parole is 30 years.
Three years later Dryman disappeared to become Montana’s longest missing fugitive.
The victim’s grandson, Clem Pellet, 56, pursued the case after first learning details last year while digging through old newspaper clippings in storage. The surgeon from Bellvue, Washington, said the matter was never discussed by the family.
The private investigator he hired used scores of documents the family dug up from old parole records, the Montana Historical Society and Internet searches to trace Dryman to the Cactus Rose Wedding Chapel in Arizona City.
Pellett told Montana corrections officials of the discovery. Officials said Dryman acknowledged his identity to officers.
The Montana Department of Corrections said that Dryman will be sent back to the state prison to face a parole revocation hearing within the next few months — and possible resumption of his life sentence.
Pellett said he is not driven to see Dryman punished.
“The legal system will handle it,” he said. “Whatever they decide is fine with me. I mean he is 78 years old.”
Pellet said would like to finish writing the family history of the long trial.
“I want to see if he wants to talk to me,” he said. “I just want to get information. There are holes in the story he could really add to.”