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Originally published Friday, December 10, 2010 at 3:00 PM

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Romantic rival held in May slaying of Kent video producer

Zip-ties, cellphone records and a bloody hand towel helped Auburn police piece together evidence linking a Portland man with the May slaying of Seth Frankel, a well-liked video producer for the city of Kent, according to court documents.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Zip-ties, cellphone records and a bloody hand towel helped Auburn police piece together evidence linking a Portland man with the May slaying of a well-liked video producer for the city of Kent, according to court documents.

The two men dated the same woman, court documents show, but she chose to pursue a relationship with the victim, Seth Frankel, something the suspect was not happy about.

The U.S. Marshals Service in Portland arrested William L. "J.R." Phillip Jr. on suspicion of first-degree murder Friday morning, a day after charges were filed by King County prosecutors and an arrest warrant issued, according to jail and court records.

The 30-year-old was booked into the Multnomah County Jail at 11 a.m. and is being held on $1 million bail, pending his extradition to Washington. He is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 21 at Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Frankel, 41, was found dead in his Auburn duplex on May 22. His girlfriend, who lives in Portland, called Frankel's landlord when she couldn't reach Frankel by phone. The landlord asked a neighbor to check on Frankel, and the neighbor called 911 after looking through a window and seeing Frankel on the living-room floor, charging papers say.

"Frankel's body was covered in blood, and he had obvious incise wounds to his neck," according to charging documents.

In the living room, "there were obvious signs of struggle" and a significant amount of blood, the papers say.

A bloody hand towel and two black zip-ties — one around Frankel's right arm, the other under an overturned coffee table — were found at the scene, charging papers say.

Frankel's girlfriend, who is in her 30s, gave investigators Phillip's name.

She said she had dated Frankel when both were living in California, but broke up when Frankel moved to take a job in Kent, the papers say. The woman later moved to Portland, where she began dating Phillip. She broke off that relationship "after she became reacquainted with the victim and decided to further pursue her relationship with him," charging papers say.

Phillip "was not happy" when the relationship ended, the papers say.

Investigators later determined Phillip uses the same zip-ties at his job at the Oregon State Convention Center, the papers say.

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Detectives also used Phillip's cellphone records to track his movements from Portland to Auburn on May 21, and determined that a phone call he placed around the time of Frankel's death was relayed from a cellphone tower within a half-mile of Frankel's house, charging papers say.

On Dec. 1, detectives obtained a search warrant for a sample of Phillip's DNA. On Wednesday, an analyst at the State Patrol Crime Lab notified investigators that Phillip's DNA matched blood found on the hand towel left in Frankel's living room, the papers say.

According to the city of Kent website, Frankel was the city's TV21 program coordinator.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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