Parole denied for Shelby murderer who vanished for 40 years
By: Aja Goare - MTN News
Frank Dryman was convicted of homicide more than 60 years ago and then spent four decades as a fugitive (MTN News photo)
Clarence Pellett was killed by Dryman in 1951
Frank Dryman in 1951
Many years ago, the grandson of a Shelby murder victim promised he would attend every parole hearing for his grandfather's killer.
On Thursday, Dr. Clem Pellett did just that, flying into Billings from Seattle for the latest parole hearing for convicted murderer Frank Dryman, 85.
At the hearing, Dryman was denied parole.
Pellett is the reason Dryman is back in prison, after he was paroled decades ago and fled the state.
Dryman was sentenced in 1955 for the murder of Clarence Pellet in 1951.
That year, Dryman had been hitchhiking near Shelby during a blizzard when Pellet picked him up. Dryman shot Clarence Pellett seven times in the back, killing him.
Dryman stole the victim's vehicle and fled to Canada.
After he was arrested, Dryman admitted to the murder and was sentenced to prison.
After serving 14 years in prison, Dryman was granted parole.
But he vanished from Shelby, taking on a new identity and operating a wedding chapel in Arizona.
Clem Pellett, who had never met his grandfather, only learned about the murder many years after Dryman was released.
The murder happened before Clem Pellett was born, but he later became engrossed in the story of how his grandfather was murdered and how the man who killed him had disappeared without a trace.
He later learned that the murder of his grandfather had created a rift in the Pellett family.
Clem Pellet graduated college with a degree in dentistry. He said the skill of attention to detail he developed in dentistry aided him in his journey to find Dryman and bring him to justice.
“He was hiding in plain sight," said Clem Pellett. "But he was a chameleon.”
With Pellett's investigative work, Dryman was eventually apprehended and returned to prison.
"It wasn't out of vengeance, it was more of completing the story," said Clem Pellett. "Putting a period on the end of the sentence."
Clem Pellett has attended each of the last three parole hearings held for Dryman since his arrest.
“He was paroled all those years ago and I found out it was because no one from the victim’s family was there to object,” said Clem Pellett. “I found out it was because my dad, who had been going to them, died 10 months before that hearing and so no one from our family went to the hearing.”
Clem Pellet, who travels the country sharing his story with law enforcement, students, and historical societies, said even after all this time, he was still moved by Thursday’s hearing.
“I’ve forgiven him a long time ago,” said Clem Pellett. “I went up to him at the last hearing and said ‘Mr. Dryman, I’m not mad at you anymore, I forgive you.' Because that allows me to have control over my own life. But for some reason, I teared up and I don't know why. I've been to - this is my third one - and they were all rigid, as a matter of fact. This one was emotional, I have no idea why, but it was. Every parole hearing, I'm here. And they even made mention of it today that they were so happy to see and it made an impact to see that there were so many generations of Pellets to be present."
Clem Pellett, who has authored a book titled Dastardly, said he is now working with producers to scout out a place in Montana to film a Hollywood movie about the true story.
Dryman is currently serving a 100-year sentence at the Lewistown Infirmary.