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Sergeant says Cayce French seemed without remorse
by: Contributed photo, Cayce French

A 17-year-old Gresham boy will spend at least 25 years in prison for murdering his older brother last Halloween.

On Wednesday, Aug. 8, a judge sentenced Cayce French to life in prison with no possibility of being released for at least 25 years. By then he will be 42.

French pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the shooting death of his brother Austin French, 23, before Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Jean Kerr Maurer as part of a plea agreement with the district attorney.

A grand jury indicted French on three counts of murder and one count of robbery following the Oct. 31, 2006, murder.

Gresham police arrested French two days after the victim's fiancee, Melissa Grassl, found Austin French's body in a bedroom of the house all three shared in the 19900 block of Northeast Glisan Street. He'd been shot in the head.

French had lived with the couple for about a year. The brothers' parents both died of cancer and French lived with a relative on the coast. But in a good-hearted effort to take care of his brother, Austin French invited French to move in with him and his fiancee, said Sgt. Jeff Hansen, a Gresham police spokesman.

Grassl could not be reached for comment.

The murder was one of two tragedies to befall the Grassl family late last year. Grassl's cousin, Christopher Grassl, 22, of Sandy, died on Nov. 12, 2006, when a man crashed a stolen car into a minivan while trying to escape police. Tyson R. MacKay, 24, is serving a 10-year prison term for manslaughter.

Hansen said French told police that he'd stolen marijuana from his brother and thought murdering him was a valid alternative to his brother coming after him.

'He had this blank stare and no-feeling appearance to him,' Hansen said, adding that the boy seemed to have no grasp on the implications of what he'd done. 'I didn't see a shred of remorse other than how he'd really screwed up his life. He was concerned about what he'd done to his future, not his brother. It was an odd, eerie thing to witness as far as interviews go.'

Hansen is still amazed that French never seemed to understand the gravity of his actions or how the murder was a complete overreaction to the circumstances.

'It isn't probably the worst thing in the world, having his brother get a hold of him for stealing marijuana,' Hansen said. 'And to take care of that situation, he shoots his brother and kills him is just an odd … it just doesn't work.'

Hansen fears French will never lose that mindset and could hit the streets in 25 years.

'As an officer, you would rather come across someone who is boisterous and outwardly angry than someone who is so cold as to be stone-faced and be able to turn right around and shoot you in the head,' Hansen said.

As for the punishment fitting the crime, Hansen said that given the heinous nature of the murder and the boy's tragic history, 'it's probably appropriate.'

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