1990 was an infamous year for me, but not in a good way. It would turn out to be a year that shaped and changed the course of my life forever. In January, I went to Las Vegas to visit my old high school friend, Marvin. But within a week, we were accused of a crime that we didn’t commit.
After eight days, the charges were dropped, and we were released. But our time in jail cost Marvin his job and his apartment. Between the two of us, we had just enough money to stay in hotels until we could figure out what to do next. However, we weren’t exactly responsible with our money, and we spent most of it on gambling and booze. Marvin’s girlfriend, Kim, also was staying with us and she sensed impending doom. After unsuccessfully trying to convince us to go back to Minnesota with her, she tearfully left us to face the fate that I’m sure she knew was coming.
Our money inevitably ran out and we began to understand the harsh reality of our situation. Without any other options, we decided that we should pull a low-risk robbery to get a few dollars. With that money, we could get a bus ticket back to our hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. We still had a lot of friends back there who would undoubtedly help us out of our desperate situation. So, we decided that robbing a cab driver was our best option.
But, unknown to me at the time, Las Vegas was in the midst of an epidemic of cab driver robberies and shootings. It was so bad that cab drivers were threatening to go on strike unless the culprits were found. The city took this threat very seriously because Vegas thrives on the revenue generated by tourists and cabs are an integral part of that equation. Without tourists and their money, there is no Las Vegas.
So, the city’s main priority was finding the people responsible for those robberies. And the people of Vegas wouldn’t have to wait long. We ended up robbing two cab drivers and, with the second one, things ended badly. Unfortunately, I shot the driver who ended up dying the next day. We were caught and the shooting ignited the final trap for us that was waiting to be sprung.
The furor our crime caused was intense. People believed that the city of Vegas finally caught the perpetrators who were causing so much turmoil and tensions.
I was front page news for the next couple of months. The city even temporarily shut down The Strip so that a procession of cabs could hold a parade that would purposely pass right by my window in the city jail. Rodney Dangerfield took out a huge ad in the paper with the caption, “Cabbies Get No Respect.” Wayne Newton and other prominent celebrities held two fundraisers for the family of the deceased cab driver. All in all, I was public enemy #1 and each day the fire burned brighter and hotter. For my part, I did nothing to help fan the flames and, as a matter of fact, I added gasoline to them.
At my first court appearance cameras and reporters packed the courtroom. As I sat down with about 20 other inmates and waited for the proceedings to begin, someone behind me told a joke that had all of us laughing. The next day a huge picture of me laughing was splattered all over the front page of the paper. This did not sit well with the public who now thought I believed the whole situation was a joke.
About a week later, two guys who were also facing a lot of time, approached me with a plan to escape from jail. Naturally, I was all for it because, at that point, what did I have to lose? The mail was located right off The Strip, so the idea was to break one of the tables in the unit and use one of the legs to break through the large plexiglass window that led two stories down to the street.
When it came time to execute the plan, the other two guys got cold feet, so I took it upon myself to try to escape on my own. It was more trouble than I anticipated, and I just ended up banging on the window with my fists. After that, a whole squadron of guards rushed into the unit and I offered no resistance. Blood was gushing from my shredded hands and I was mentally and physically defeated. Finally, I was kept in the bowels of the jail until I left for prison. But this incident made me look like I was trying to escape my punishment instead of facing what I did.
My trial came and it proved to be a circus. It literally was standing room only inside the courtroom. There was even a high school class there which, I guess, figured that a murder trial would make for a good field trip. The only person who seemed oblivious to the whole thing was my mother. But she lost touch with reality many years ago.
As a young girl, my mom lost her own mother after she suddenly and mysteriously died at a young age. My mother was then passed on from friend to friend and relative to relative, many of whom molested and sexually abused her. She eventually landed with a woman who decided to use my mother’s beauty to her advantage. She entered her into a lot of beauty contests, many of which she either won or in which she placed very highly. But this came with a cost. My mom’s mental health began to deteriorate, but the more she won the more her mental problems were ignored.
All that time in her life, my mom identified with Cinderella and she hoped that her very own Prince Charming would come and save her from her hopeless and unhappy situation. My father ended up coming to her rescue. Although they were both in high school, she considered him to be her savior because he always listened to her and was willing to help her in any way he could. Right after their graduation, they got married and my dad even thought he saw some of her mental deterioration improve. He felt that he was the right person to help her.
Even though my dad joined the Army and was back and forth from Vietnam to the States, the first three years of their marriage were good. Problems began to surface when he was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. At the time I had just been born and my older brother, Dale, was a little over one. I had two other brothers that were born in Germany. But our time there ended abruptly when my mom set fire to the house. She believed the house was possessed by evil spirits.
After that, German authorities kindly told us to leave their country. My dad was then stationed in Tacoma, Washington and the problems continued. Eventually my dad admitted defeat and filed for a divorce. My three other brothers and I stayed with our mom, and this proved to be disastrous. With all the sexual abuse my mom suffered as a child and her belief that my dad deserted her, her ever-growing hatred toward men caused her to take her anger out on her four young boys, all of whom were under the age of five.
Over the next few years, we were the victims of her horrendous abuse. One day the neighbors heard screams coming from our house and called the authorities. When the police came, they found four grossly abused kids. My youngest brother, Andrew, who was four at the time had cigarette burns, old and new, all over his body. My mother felt that his acting out was because he had the devil in him, and she believed that the only way to rid him of Satan was to burn him.
My other brother, Ronnie, walked with a noticeable limp due to more than one broken leg. It would take years to correct Ronnie’s problem surgically. We all had various scars all over our bodies. I had an abused retina and a broken collarbone. The officer who carried me to the ambulance was crying and she kept telling me over and over that it was going to be okay. That would be the last time I would ever physically see my two younger brothers again.
My mother voluntarily signed the proper papers to relinquish her rights as a mother. She was placed in a mental institution where she could get the help she needed. Her condition greatly improved over time, and she compared it to waking up from a long, deep sleep. She eventually was released and when she found out what she had done to her children and how she gave up her rights as a parent, she found the nearest bridge and jumped off it.
Luckily for her, a young couple happened to be in a boat nearby and pulled her body from the water. Years later, she testified at my trial and, after she spoke, that would be the last time anyone saw her alive. She was found dead in her apartment after neighbors complained of the smell. She had been deceased for several days and no autopsy could be performed because her body, as the report states, “was in an advanced state of decomposition.”
For my crime, I was given the death penalty. But my case was overturned when one of the news cameras caught my judge sleeping during the proceedings. But I was given the death penalty again and, in 1996, I went to the “death house” to await my execution. Thankfully, a judge stopped it in time and issued me a stay. In 2012 I was taken off death row by the Supreme Court and now I’m working toward an eventual release from prison.
In actuality, my story is not better or worse than anyone else’s. We’ve all been through experiences that have left us battered and bruised in some way. But these stories aren’t meant to cripple us, but rather to make way for our triumphant rise. And it is only when this happens, can we forget about what we went through and realize that there was a hero in us all along.
Frederick Paine was on death row before his sentence was overturned in 2009 and he was re-sentenced to life without parole for the murder of a cab driver in a robbery.
Frederick Paine #32945
Southern Desert CC
PO Box 208
Indian Springs, NV