Grandmother Wants Molester to ‘Feel the Fear’ of His Victims : Courts: A woman fights for judicial reform. The man convicted of killing her daughter’s child in 1978 is moving closer to his own death.


For 13 years, Patti Linebaugh has waited to see the terror in Theodore Frank’s face as cyanide fumes rise around him in the gas chamber at San Quentin Prison.

“I want him to feel the fear that he put into Amy and all those other children,” said the 53-year-old Camarillo woman. “I want him to see that someone else has finally had the upper hand.”

Later this month, Frank moves a step closer to surrendering his life for committing one of the most heinous murders in Ventura County history, the 1978 torture and slaying of Linebaugh’s 2-year-old granddaughter, Amy Sue Seitz.


After the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial last month of Frank’s latest appeal, a federal judge is scheduled to sign his death warrant Sept. 27 and set an execution date 30 to 60 days hence.

However, Frank, 56, is expected to file for a stay of execution in another attempt to get his conviction overturned or his sentence commuted to life without parole. Linebaugh, who has been a crusader for judicial reform since Amy’s death, expects it will be at least another three to five years before the sentence is carried out.

“Why should he get any more time?” said Amy’s mother, Cheryl Roberts, who broke a 13-year silence Thursday in an interview at her mother’s home. “He didn’t give Amy any time. He didn’t let her fight off death for years.”

“Clearly, the system needs to be reformed,” said Deputy U.S. Atty. Jeffrey Koch, the most recent prosecutor on the case. “It’s the old saying, ‘slow justice is no justice.’ ”

Frank was convicted in 1980 of kidnaping Amy from a baby-sitter’s front yard on March 14, 1978. He forced her to drink beer before torturing and mutilating her with vice grips and then raping and strangling her. He dumped the child’s body in a Topanga Canyon drainage ditch from which it was dragged out by a dog two days later.

“The only fear Amy had was of the dark. She was not old enough to know that Theodore Frank was the dark,” Linebaugh said.


Only six weeks before the slaying, Frank had been released as cured from Atascadero State Hospital, where he was confined from 1974 to 1978 for sexually assaulting a 4-year-old Bakersfield girl. After his arrest for Amy’s death, Frank admitted to molesting 100 to 150 children in four states between 1958 and 1974 and after his release in 1978.

So incensed was Linebaugh by the system’s ignorance in deeming Frank rehabilitated that she helped found Stronger Legislation Against Child Molesters, or SLAM, which had more than 100 chapters in 43 states when Linebaugh finally left her leadership position with the group in 1988.

In response to SLAM’s lobbying efforts, the California Legislature passed laws making prison mandatory for most child molesters, abolishing their automatic placement in a mental hospital and offering more protection for frightened child witnesses. The number of child molesters in state prisons rose from 57 in 1979 to more than 2,500 by the late 1980s.

Linebaugh’s second crusade was aimed at California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and fellow liberal Justices Joseph R. Grodin and Cruz Reynoso after the court overturned Frank’s death penalty in 1985. The penalty was reimposed in a second trial.

She became co-chairman of Crime Victims for Court Reform, the group considered instrumental in unseating the three justices in the November, 1986, election.

Frustrated by Frank’s continued avoidance of his sentence, Linebaugh joined with state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren and the county’s two congressmen Wednesday in calling for passage of a crime bill now in Congress that would limit defendants’ appeal rights and ease restrictions on evidence seized by police.


“We never imagined it would take this long. It’s more frustrating now than ever,” Linebaugh said. “Our hands are still tied. The system moves so slowly, and there’s nothing you can do but appeal to politicians for stronger laws.”

“What victims need is to see a closure,” said Ventura County Assistant Dist. Atty. Colleen Toy White. “The only way it will end in Patti’s mind is to see Frank get the justice he deserves.”

Amy Sue Seitz would have turned 16 in July. At the time of her death, she was Linebaugh’s first and only grandchild.

After the slaying, Linebaugh carried the gauntlet for her daughter, who at 20 was too young to endure the emotional strain of repeatedly recounting the killing, she said. Roberts, an unwed mother at the time of Amy’s murder, has since married a Navy officer and is the mother of three boys, 9-year-old twins and a 6-year-old.

Roberts, who returned to her hometown last year after living for eight years in Florida and Louisiana, said it was difficult to come back despite the passage of time.

“It was easier being gone, knowing that my mother was taking care of everything,” said Roberts, 33, who works in Camarillo as a supermarket clerk. “She stepped right in and helped me. She accomplished a lot that I could never have done.”


“It just doesn’t end,” Roberts said. “I was back only two months and we were in the Supreme Court again.”

The death penalty was reinstated in California in 1977. There are more than 300 people on Death Row, but no executions have been carried out since 1967.

In recent court proceedings, Frank’s lawyers have depicted him as a model prisoner who deserves life without parole after undergoing a religious transformation at San Quentin and becoming an accomplished painter. His lawyer could not be reached for comment.

But as long as Frank escapes execution, her family’s emotional wounds will not be healed, said Linebaugh, who keeps photos of Amy in her bedroom and office at the Camarillo escrow company she manages. “We’ve been forced into a dungeon of despair,” said Linebaugh, who now has 10 grandchildren ages 2 to 12.

“He’d just turn around in the courtroom and grin at us. He knew he wasn’t going anywhere fast,” Linebaugh said. “He’s arrogant and unremorseful and takes pride in his ability to manipulate the system like he did the psychiatrists. He’ll take every avenue to avoid the sentence he deserves.

“I want the vindication of seeing that man die,” Linebaugh said. “We wouldn’t have 15- to 20-year delays if the scales of justice were truly balanced.”