Book reveals gritty truth of fighting crimeWritten by Sanya Ali | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Stiles could have died on May 15, 1967.
A perpetrator at a local convenience store had fury in his eyes and a gun at Stiles’ stomach; before the detective could stop him, he pulled the trigger.
“Only the person that experiences those things can really tell the story and understand the feeling of the traumatic experience you go through,” Stiles said. “You’re not really worried about what’s going to happen to you, you’re worried about taking care of the job at present.”
Stiles lived because of a misfire, what he calls “a miracle.” Today, he is chief investigator for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office and author of two true-crime books. His newest book details cases from his time as a detective for the Toledo Police Department (TPD).
Stiles’ near-death experience is the first anecdote shared in “City Soldiers.” The book highlights the violence police officers have experienced in Toledo the past few decades.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my position as far as experience goes,” Stiles said. “I handled most of the high-profile cases when I was [with TPD], and at least assisted on others.”
Stiles’ true-crime novels are 2007’s “Evil Brothers,” which he followed up with “Blind Trust” in 2010; both detail local crimes he was instrumental in solving. At the prosecutor’s office, Stiles works on mainly white-collar cases.
He is a cheerful man with a full head of blond hair who enjoyed a successful 25-year career with TPD. He said he “made thousands of arrests and interrogated thousands of people.”
He smiled while discussing his accomplishments, though his blue-gray eyes turned downward while discussing the brutality of some of the crimes he encountered.
Stiles said his goal was to not become hardened as a result of his trying profession.
“You have to tell yourself, when you walk out of that department or wherever you work, that most people are honest, good people,” he said. “We’re only dealing with very few people in society that are doing these things.”
Stiles has a table full of photos in his office. He points to one in particular, of a girl with long brown hair. The girl is Dawn Backes, one of the victims of Anthony and Nathaniel Cook, the serial killers detailed in “Evil Brothers.” Stiles arrested Anthony in 1981.
“Her mother gave me that picture,” Stiles said. “I said, ‘I’ll put that with my family pictures,’ so I’ve always had that there.”
Backes was 12 years old when she was assaulted and murdered by the Cooks. The photo reminds Stiles of those whose lives were cut short due to violence.
Each chapter of “City Soldiers” follows officers through a night on the force. Stiles didn’t work all the cases he wrote about, but his research was extensive. He said he read police reports, spoke to surviving officers and family and looked at old news stories.
The most recent story included in the book is that of Keith Dressel, the detective killed in 2007 during the attempted arrest of a juvenile suspect.
Larraine Dressel, Keith’s mother, said though the experience was painful to relive, Stiles wrote in such a way that she was not overwhelmed.
“It was put in a way that I could follow along all of the crimes and understand, because some of the crime scenes are very difficult,” Larraine said.
Larraine said Stiles, whom she met last year, struck her as an honest man with good intentions.
“He asked questions and he seemed very caring, he wanted to be thorough,” Larraine said. “He told us he was investigating it, checking every fact, so I knew what he said would be the truth.”
Diane Miscannon, daughter of slain officer William Miscannon, also met Stiles when he contacted her last April to confirm details for his book. William died on patrol during a Black Panther riot in the 1970s.
“From what I know of Frank and what I’ve heard of him, he’s a pretty sharp guy and I’m very appreciative he included my dad in his book,” Diane said.
Diane said she hopes Stiles’ book raises awareness and fosters respect for those in uniform.
“The police department and fire department put their lives on the line every day,” Diane said. “This is a life-sacrificing job. This is a life-changing job.”
Stiles said the lesson in each of his books is that people should be cautious, no matter where they live.
“[These cases] just show anybody during any period of time that they can face those kind of situations,” Stiles said. “No area is immune to crime, and in some it’s much more prevalent than others.”
Stiles said his book should show the true sacrifice TPD officers make each day.
“We want [people] to remember our police officers as we remember our military on Memorial Day,” Stiles said. “We never want to forget the price they paid, whether they died, were shot or faced these near-death situations. We’re thankful that they did their job.”
Tags: Anthony Cook, Black Panther, Blind Trust, chief investigator, City of Soldiers, Dawn Backes, DIane Miscannon, Evil Brothers, Frank Stiles, Keith Dressel, Larraine Dressel, Lucas County Prosecutors Office, Memorial Day, Nathaniel Cook, Toledo, Toledo Police Department, TPD, true crime, William Miscannon