Entering the Dunmore home of Robin Bonacci, it’s not easy to ignore the large photo of a young man with an incandescent smile framed on the mantle of the fireplace.
That smile is what Robin says she misses most about the man in the picture. It’s her son Frankie, who was murdered in July 2013. He was 24 years old. She also misses those big, beautiful blue eyes, she says softly.
It’s the first day of July when Robin invites Weekender into her home — the introduction of a month deluged with painful memories and haunting anniversaries. July 20 will interminably remind her of the day her son went missing. July 27, the day his body was found in his SUV at the bottom of a ravine near Nay Aug Park in Scranton, will lastingly elicit the agony of knowing her son will never come home again.
There’s finally something to look forward to come July, Robin says. On Saturday, July 19, the second annual Frankie’s Voice 5K Bandana Run/Walk Against Violence will be held in her son’s memory at Nay Aug Park.
“It is what it is,” she says of Frankie’s murder, “but it becomes what you make it.”
Family and friends of Frankie grind purposely to make certain Frankie is remembered for the person he was when he was alive, not how he was killed.
Robin has very little to say about how her son died, and even less about the two men who prematurely took his life. Neil Pal and Jason Dominick were convicted for Frankie’s murder in 2014. Pal was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison plus 20 to 40 years. Dominick was found guilty of third degree murder and conspiracy and will spend 42 1/2 to 85 years behind bars — the maximum for his role in the murder while on probation.
Robin says she hasn’t had the opportunity to speak to her son’s killers, nor does she want to. There’s no point, she says. Nothing they could say could bring her son back.
If she were to say something to them, Robin revealed she’d wish them a “long, lonely life in prison.” That’s the worst punishment, she said.
Even though they took her son’s life, she’d never wish death on them. When the district attorney asked if she wanted to pursue the death penalty, she declined. “It’s not my job to judge if they live or die,” she said. “It’s not my place to take their lives, just like it wasn’t their place to take Frankie’s life.”
THE BRIGHTER SIDE
As the second anniversary of Frankie’s death approaches, Robin says she’s focused on the race and keeping his legacy alive.
“I just want to focus on doing good things because that’s what Frankie would have done,” she said.
Robin described her son as “one of a kind.” He was someone who was down for anything, she said, and would do anything for anybody.
With a smile on her face, Robin noted that Frankie always saw the brighter side of everything. Emulating his spirit and demeanor is what carries her through each day.
Robin also acknowledges she never would have been able to make it through the past two years without the help of the community. People throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania have shown their support through a legion of donations and fundraisers — even volunteers who searched for his body throughout the week he was missing.
“The support from the community means everything to me,” Robin said. “It doesn’t make anything easier, but it makes me know I’m truly blessed. I never expected all the support.”
The time and effort from the community served as the motive behind Frankie’s Voice, a non-profit organization created in Frankie’s honor.
Courtlind Davis was close friends with Frankie. She said his family and friends struggled to find a way to thank everyone who offered support. “So we decided to create Frankie’s Voice,” Davis said.
Frankie’s Voice raises awareness against violence and gives back to the community.
“It’s our way of saying thank you to the community,” Robin said.
“When someone goes missing, we share their picture and information on our page and ask our 14,000 followers to share it and help bring them home,” Davis shared. “We want to fulfill the life Frankie could have led if he was still alive and to always keep his name and legacy alive as well.”
Frankie’s legacy of helping others and raising awareness against violence will unite members of the community when the run/walk takes place this month.
Registration is $25 and is open online at www.signmeup.com/site/online-event-registration/108565.
Participants can register right up until the race begins, Davis said. The registration table will be open from 7 to 9 a.m., when the race begins.
Money raised will help support Frankie’s Voice. Proceeds will also be donated to trooper Alex Douglass, who was a victim of extreme crime when shot by Eric Frein in 2014.
“There’s no need for the extreme violence that goes on,” Robin said.
Because of mindless brutality, Robin has to live the rest of her life knowing her son will never walk through her front door again to embrace her with a hug and greet her with his blue eyes.
She’s moving forward knowing his legacy is kept alive, and that there’s a bright side to his loss with the awareness the 5K will bring each year.
Reach Justin Adam Brown at 570-991-6652
FRANKIE’S VOICE 5K BANDANA RUN/WALK AGAINST VIOLENCE
When: 9 a.m., Saturday, July 19
Where: Nay Aug Park, Scranton
Registration: $25 at www.signmeup.com/site/online-event-registration/108565