Frank Gove: Found dead in a baseball card shop in SLO in 1990

September 9, 2010 

Frank Gove was killed on March 7, 1990.

The 71-year-old grandfather had been working at his son's baseball card shop in San Luis Obispo, near what is now the Jennifer Street Bridge, when someone entered the store and bashed his head with a baseball bat.

Nearly 20 years later, the case remains unsolved.

On the night of March 7, 1990, Gove was supposed to go to dinner with his wife Iva and their children — a celebration of the Goves' 49th wedding anniversary. His son, Richard, had called him at Central Coast Baseball Cards, where Frank Gove should have been closing up.

No one answered the phone.

As Richard Gove drove to the shop, he heard sirens. Then he saw an ambulance drive past him.

"All of the sudden, my heart starts beating, " Richard Gove said.

Outside the card shop, on Santa Barbara Street, police had roped off the area with yellow tape.

Richard Gove exited his car and was approached by a police officer who told him what had happened.

"I said, 'Somebody killed my dad?' " Richard Gove said. "They said, 'Yeah,' and I started going into shock."

From the outset, it was a challenging case. There were no witnesses and no physical evidence leading to a suspect. If the motive was solely robbery — several items were stolen from the store — the culprit could have been anybody. None of the stolen merchandise, which included baseball cards and figurines, has surfaced.

"I think they were just going for drug money," said Gove's daughter, Linda Rodgers, in 1999.

At one time, police released a sketch of a man who had been seen at the store before the killing, but that person has not been identified.

Dearden said police also once had a suspect in mind: the brother of a woman who worked with Richard Gove. But that man was never arrested.

A few years after the killing, Richard Gove, a banker, was convicted of embezzling money from his employer. He expressed remorse for the crime, saying the stress of his father's death — and a subsequent auto accident that killed his daughter — contributed to his actions.

Richard, who is still in the baseball card business, does not think anything he did would have caused someone to kill his father.

"I can't think of anyone that would do something to my dad to get at me," he said.

Bresnahan said he doesn't believe the killing was related to any of Richard Gove's actions.

The killer, he added, could very well be a stranger. But, in a murder investigation, he added, a detective has to consider many angles — and many suspects.

"You don't exclude anybody," he said.

Friends and relatives say it's unlikely that Frank Gove would have done anything to prompt a murder.

"He was just a wonderful, giving man," said Bob Brown, a longtime friend who still lives next to Gove's old home in San Luis Obispo.

Frank Gove was a physically large, gregarious person who enjoyed helping people with special projects, such as building cabinets or performing landscaping chores.

He was a hard worker, who ran away from home at age 12 and worked most of his life afterward.

Richard Gove had actually suggested his father work at the card shop because he feared that his father would over-exert himself otherwise.

Now, Richard Gove said, he feels guilty for having his father work in the shop that tragic night.

"I'm the one who put my dad in harm's way," he said.

The killing had a grave impact on the people who knew Frank Gove.

"I had panic attacks, and I just couldn't sleep, " said Dearden, Gove's granddaughter, whose future husband first asked her out on a date the night of the killing, not knowing what had happened.

The family would experience further shock when Dearden's sister, Allyson Gove, was killed in a January 1992 accident. But, as horrible as that was, Dearden said, it wasn't a murder.

"With (the murder), there's a lot of rage," she said, still unable to comprehend why anyone would kill her grandfather. "He was 71 years old. There was no reason to kill him."

Rodgers, who talked to the coroner after the murder, said her father probably didn't suffer much. He may have attempted to fight back, Rodgers said, but she was told that he probably didn't live more than 30 seconds after the attack. The injuries were massive.

In fact, Richard Gove said, well after the murder, he occasionally found objects in his shop that had been splattered with his father's blood.

While no one witnessed the slaying, the killing was recreated for the television show "America's Most Wanted, " which aired segments on the case four times.

The show did generate interest, and for a time after the killing, police and family members were regularly getting calls from people offering information.

"It used to be all the time, " Richard Gove said. "I'd say for a year afterward, every few weeks somebody would call."But as the years passed, the calls began to dwindle. And so did the hopes of solving the case."

"Now it looks like it's going nowhere," said Gove's former neighbor, Brown.

"But it's not a dead case, I know that."

Brown thinks the killer will eventually talk about the case.

"Someday somebody in prison might say, 'Hey, I killed somebody in San Luis, ' " said Brown, who initially thought the case would be solved in a day or two.

Gove's survivors remain optimistic that someday the case will be solved.

While that would offer some closure to the death, it wouldn't bring Gove back, his son said. It wouldn't bring back his guidance, it wouldn't allow anyone to say goodbye, and it wouldn't revitalize memories of Frank Gove that have been erased by time.

Richard Gove regrets that he was never able to videotape his father. While he has photos, a video would allow him to better remember his father, who was unexpectedly taken away.

"Some days I can't remember his voice."

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