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On July 18, 1997, a motorist driving through Douglas County, Wisconsin happened upon the body of a man lying on the side of the country road.
The victim, later identified by officials as 45-year-old businessman Mark Foster, was dressed head-to-toe in white — shirt, shoes, jacket, belt, everything.
However, a red bloodstain covered his chest, where he’d been shot at close range, investigators told Oxygen's “Framed By The Killer,” airing Friday, January 15 at 9/8c on Oxygen.
Detectives had lots of questions as they considered the crime scene. Why had there been no attempt to hide the body? How did Foster, a software pioneer behind the electronic library business Quanta Press and a pharmacist, end up dead on a rural stretch of dirt road in northwestern Wisconsin? And what was up with the all-white outfit?
Foster’s autopsy led to yet another mystery. Tucked inside the victim’s shoe was a cryptic note that read: "Jack Frazier isn’t here but it’s Jimmy Bailey? Or look alike? Geez It’s 3 toughs. Hope I’m OK."
As detectives questioned the note, they learned that Foster’s nephew, Brent Thompson, 29, who lived with his uncle, reported him missing on the morning of July 18, which made them wonder why Thompson had made the call so quickly. While digging into the myriad questions surrounding the case, they discovered that the victim’s personal life was tangled with tumult.
Before marrying Mark Foster four months before the murder, Sarah Phillips-Foster, who was expecting a baby, had abruptly broken up with her former boyfriend.
The ex’s name: Jack Frazier. He harbored resentment over the way his relationship with Phillips-Foster had ended. He told "Framed By The Killer" Phillips-Foster told him to expect a pot roast dinner when he got home from a road trip.
Instead, she was gone. “No pot roast,” said Frazier. “No pots. No pans. No Sarah.”
Then there was Jimmy Bailey, Sarah’s ex-husband, who had been in a bitter custody battle with her. He was the other man named in the note.
Investigators interviewed both men, considering the possibility that bad blood between the men in Phillips-Foster’s life could have led to fatal bloodshed. However, both Frazier and Bailey had rock-solid alibis that cleared them from suspicion. Detectives were “back to square one,” they told producers.
It appeared Frazier and Bailey were being set up to take the fall for Foster’s murder. But by whom?
Investigators started to focus on Foster’s widow, who, like Thompson and a 29-year-old man named Gregory Friesner who also lived with the Fosters, never questioned how Mark Foster was killed. Choked? Stabbed? Shot? Drowned? They never bothered to ask.
That lack of curiosity struck Steven Long, a retired detective with the Douglas County Sheriff Department, as highly unusual. Was it because they didn’t care? Or was it because they already knew?
Officials obtained a search warrant for the Foster house.
“Things got very unusual very quickly,” David Voss, a retired detective with the Minneapolis Police Department who worked the case, told “Framed By The Killer.”
A sweep of the home revealed that it was packed with pornography and sex-related materials. In the attic, there was an altar upon which detectives found their business cards. Investigators appeared to be “targets of their anger,” said Voss.
The investigation eventually revealed Foster considered himself a high priest “of this voodoo Santeria cult.” Friesner, who Foster met at a Twin Cities bookstore and recruited into his fold, was a faithful follower and his right-hand man in the cult.
As detectives dug into the complex case, they learned Foster adhered to the notion that his consciousness could be transferred into the mind of another person. The hitch: that person would have to kill him to trigger the exchange.
Foster not only believed it, investigators told producers, but he said he actually had murdered a high priest in a ritualistic slaying in New Orleans to make the transaction happen for him. That claim, though, was debunked by Frazier, who told producers he looked into Foster’s assertion when he was in the Big Easy.
Investigators turned their attention to the murder weapon in Foster’s slaying. The victim’s son, Jeramy Foster, told detectives that his father kept a gun in a storage locker. Reviewing footage from a security camera at the facility, detectives saw Foster was at the facility the day before he was killed. When he left the locker, he was carrying something in a bag.
Detectives theorized Foster was carrying the gun and he may have been the architect of his murder. But why would he design a plan to have himself killed? They believed the answer was likely money.
Investigators found that Foster’s life financially “was spiraling out of control.” He was deeply in debt. Not long before his murder, he had taken out insurance policies worth more than $300,000 naming Phillips-Foster, Thompson, and Friesner as beneficiaries, according to “Framed By The Killer.”
Although insurance companies don’t pay out in suicides, Voss pointed out, they will for someone “murdered on a county road.” The all-white garb Foster wore on the day he was killed could have been the ceremonial outfit for a high priest. Friesner, his second-in-command, would be a logical choice to commit the murder and obtain Foster’s priesthood and soul in return.
Foster’s plan to end his life, Long said, would tie everything up with a bow. Power would be transferred. Beneficiaries would get rich. And in the process, he would “frame two people that he didn’t like — Jack Frazier and Jimmy Bradley.”
It was an intriguing theory, but without evidence or a confession, prosecutors couldn’t indict anyone. The case went cold for 18 months — but then Thompson came to the Douglas County Sheriff Department.
He confirmed detectives’ theories. He and Friesner took part in the killing with the consent and participation of Mark Foster. Thompson drove Foster and Friesner to the murder site, dumped the gun in the St. Croix River after the murder, and then lied to authorities to misdirect them, the Associated Press reported in 2003. He was sentenced to three years for his role in the crime.
Friesner pulled the trigger and shot Foster in the heart. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the AP reported.
Phillips-Foster wasn’t charged.
Foster’s homicide, said Voss, stands out as the “most bizarre murder case” he’s ever worked.
Meanwhile, the case has left an indelible mark on Frazier. “They tried to set me up on a murder charge,” he told producers. “It’s like something you read about in a book. Crazy people do crazy stuff.”
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