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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Hate crime
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 15, 1987
Date of birth: October 23, 1968
Victim profile: Anthony Milano, 26 (gay man)
Method of murder: Slashing his throat
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in July 1989

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Eastern Distric

opinion J-122-98

Born October 23, 1968. Chester was convicted and sentenced to death for kidnapping, conspiracy, half a dozen other related offenses, and the first degree murder of Anthony Milano, a gay man, on December 15, 1987.

Along with a friend, Richard Laird, Chester met Milano at a bar (non-gay specific) in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Laird was heard yelling, “I hate fucking faggots” during the evening. All three left the bar together and Milano was murdered a few hours later.

Chester denies taking part in beating Milano and fatally slashing his throat. Chester is on death row at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.


Frank Chester

In July 1989, Chester and his codefendant, Richard Laird, were sentenced to death for the first-degree murder of 26-year-old Anthony Milano.

During the evening of December 14, 1987, Anthony Milano went to his father’s home to advise his father that he intended to go out for the evening. Anthony left his father’s residence at approximately 11:15 p.m. in a 1976 Chevrolet Nova registered his mother's name.

Anthony proceeded to the Edgely Inn, where Frank Chester and Richard Laird also happened to be on that occasion. Chester and Laird had been in the tavern for quite some time prior to the arrival of Anthony. Both had exhibited quarrelsome and aggressive behavior before Anthony arrived at the Inn.

Chester, who possessed skills in the art of Karate, had threatened to assault one of the male guests at the establishment and Laird was loud and argumentative that evening in the premises. Anthony arrived at the Inn sometime after 11:15 p.m. and left shortly after closing time, accompanied by Chester and Laird.

The three men were last observed in the Nova with Milano driving and Laird supplying directions as to their destination. There was also testimony that during the time that the three men were in the tavern Chester and Laird at one point were taunting Milano as to his masculinity.

On the evening of December 15, police responded to a report of a car fire. The vehicle involved was a Chevrolet Nova. A search of the wooded area adjacent to where the automobile was parked resulted in the discovery of the body of Anthony Milano.

The body was lying face up with the left eye partially open, contusions in the facial area, and multiple “slashings” on the neck and throat. A postmortem examination revealed that the victim had been assaulted about the face and had sustained lacerations about the face, throat, neck and shoulder.

The pathologist concluded that Anthony had been kicked and/or punched in both the right and left temple areas and the chin. A hairline fracture at the base of the skull was attributed to a blunt instrument striking the head. The lacerations were made by a sharp instrument, consistent with a utility knife.

The pathologist opined that the “slashings” were hard enough and deep enough to sever the fifth and sixth vertebrae and were too numerous to count. It was also concluded that the victim aspirated on his own blood for five to ten minutes before expiring.

A police officer testified that when he arrived at the scene he first observed the vehicle ablaze and assisted in extinguishing the fire. The vehicle was identified as being the 1976 Chevrolet Nova registered in the name of the mother of the deceased.

Police records further established that Anthony's mother had reported the deceased as a “missing person” when he failed to return to the family home in the early morning hours of December 15, 1987.

This officer further testified that prior to the response to the car fire, at approximately 1:30 a.m. on December 15, he had responded, with two fellow officers, to a reported stolen car which was found in a parking lot of the Edgely Inn. To pursue their investigation they began interrogating the customers in the Edgely Inn.

During that investigation he observed Chester, Laird, and Anthony Milano at the bar. The time was fixed at approximately 1:30 a.m., December 15. He requested identification from each of these individuals and was satisfied that they were not involved in the car theft.

At approximately 2:10 a.m., while he was still in the parking lot, he observed Anthony, Chester, and Laird leave the Inn together. This testimony was confirmed by the other two officers that responded to the stolen car complaint. The fire marshal for the township testified that in his opinion the fire which involved the Milano vehicle was deliberately and intentionally ignited.

In addition, the Commonwealth presented evidence to establish that at approximately 4:00 a.m., December 15, Chester and Laird approached on foot, the apartment of a friend of Chester’s. The apartment was located less than a mile from the murder scene. The friend testified that both were visibly agitated and were covered with blood.

Chester attempted to explain their condition by stating that they had been engaged in a fight and “the dude is dead.” The friend took both men to Laird’s apartment where they attempted to remove and conceal their bloody clothing. Prosecutors also produced additional witnesses to whom Chester and Laird made incriminatory statements and actions that reflected their complicity in the murder.

The Commonwealth also produced a transcription of a consensually intercepted telephone call between Chester and Laird, during which Laird suggested that Chester leave town, recommended ways Chester could pass a polygraph examination, and commented on the Commonwealth’s inability to prove a case without evidence. Both defendants testified at trial and admitted being at the scene.


Until Justice is Served

The Frank Chester Story

Just outside of Philadelphia lies a very small place that has just one sign on the highway to advertise its existence: Tullytown, Pennsylvania. Drive too fast on Route 13 and you'll miss this place for it is made up of just a few small streets, several traffic lights and it hardly seems like the kind of place where crimes like murder would ever be committed.

But if you stay in Tullytown long enough, someone will mention the story of Anthony Milano, Rick Laird, and Frank Chester. It began almost nine years ago on December 14, 1987. And as of today, the story is far from over. On that night, one man was murdered, one man became a murderer, and another man is sitting on Death Row for a crime he did not commit. Until justice is served, this story will never be over.

"How did I get here when all I did was try to help the police?" is a question Frank asks himself every day.

In 1987, he and a friend, Rick Laird, were out at a local bar when they met Anthony Milano. Anthony and Frank found they had a lot in common. They were both Italian, both raised Catholic, and both were on the verge of getting their lives together and facing their futures as adults. But all that was to end when Rick, Frank, and Anthony left the bar.

While on the way to a friend's house, Rick, so drunk and strung out on drugs at the time, lost his temper when Anthony wanted to go home. In a fit of rage, Rick Laird dragged Anthony to a nearby wooded area and knifed Anthony in the throat. In a matter of moments, Anthony was dead.. Frank Chester saw the murder as it was happening and ran through the woods to a friend's house, shaken by what he had just seen.

After the murder, Frank cooperated with the police. He produced the clothes he was wearing at the time (which had not one drop of Anthony's blood on them), gave the police the names of all his friends and the patrons in the bar. He even submitted to a lie detector test which he passed with flying colors. He also agreed to be wire-tapped in a phone conversation with Rick Laird in order to help the police implicate Rick Laird for the murder.

But a District Attorney with an election year ahead of him used all the work that Frank did against him and now Frank finds himself on Death Row facing his final appeal shortly before his execution.

Anthony Milano was a gay man who was learning to accept his identity. When the DA learned this fact, he used Anthony's homosexuality as the cause for his horrible death. Frank and Rick were depicted as hate mongers. That's when the media circus began.

The case received much publicity. The press portrayed both Frank and Rick as evil-gay bashers and the trial quickly bolted into national headlines. Both Frank and Rick were offered up as sacrificial lambs, while Frank remained steadfast in his innocence. Sometimes when we try to cooperate with justice, it still does not prevail and Frank is living proof of that.

When you look at the evidence, the police reports, and the subsequent transcripts, the evidence clearly indicates that only one man, Rick Laird could have committed this crime. Blood was found in his apartment, a pack of cigarettes that Rick smoked was found under the body, and Rick had a previous arrest history for violent behavior. All of these were signs that Rick Laird was an accident waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, the DA in this case used every ounce of evidence Frank supplied against him, even the wire-tapped phone conversation was used as a way to convince the jury Frank had done the crime. Dates were forged on reports and witnesses were coerced by the DA in order to put both Frank and Rick behind bars and on Death Row. Recently Rick Laird has tried to have his sentenced reduced, indicating that because he was so strung out on drugs and alcohol, that he had no way of knowing what he was doing that fateful night. Because of this, Rick has somewhat exonerated Frank but Frank still is on Death Row.

However, time is running out and something must be done now! Frank is also the victim of Celiac Disease, a degenerative condition which slowly erodes the body within. If prison does not kill him, his disease certainly will unless he is provided with the needed treatment to help save his life. This will happen only if Frank has a lawyer who will truly work in his best interests to bring all of the facts regarding the crime to light.

In 1987, Frank lost his family, his fiancé, his beloved car collection, and most importantly, his entire life. In the years he has been in prison, Frank has studied law and has used his abilities to help others in need. He has become, to the guards, a model prisoner, having never committed a violent act or done drugs in prison. He prays every day that his legal acumen will help to release him from the bonds of prison so he can go back to his life and be with his family. He is a living example that justice does not always prevail.



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