'There was rage involved': Detectives recount investigation into brutal murders of Scott Sessions, Heather Frank

"20/20” reports on the methods that helped lead detectives to the killer.

June 2, 2023, 8:21 AM

When the body of musician Scott Sessions was found nearly decapitated in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, investigators from local jurisdictions began searching for suspects. A series of breaks in the case revealed that 53-year-old Sessions left for a date but never returned. “20/20” reports on how forensic data tracking and civilian surveillance helped lead detectives to the killer.

On Monday, February 10, 2020, Sessions failed to appear for a performance at The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, where he was scheduled to play trumpet in a sold-out concert. “In the back of my mind, I had a bad feeling,” said Sessions’ bandmate, George Gray. Former bandmates also explained that Sessions always arrived early to his gigs.

The next day, Scott’s father, Stan Sessions, reported his son missing. Soon thereafter, police advised Stan Sessions that Scott’s body was found near Poudre Canyon by a snowplow driver. “The body had been intentionally burned and wrapped in plastic and that plastic had been bound and duct-taped,” explained Sgt. Jerry Porter of Weld County Sheriff’s Office.

An autopsy revealed that Sessions’ throat was slit with so much force it nearly decapitated him. “There was rage involved in it. [It’s an] absolute horror that somebody could be treated that way and then disposed of that way. No one deserves that,” said Larimer County Investigator Justin Atwood.

The news of the murder left Sessions’ friends and family stunned. “Who would want to kill my Scotty?” exclaimed his ailing mother.

PHOTO: Scott Sessions is shown playing the trumpet in this undated photo.
Scott Sessions is shown playing the trumpet in this undated photo.
Courtesy of George Gray

The full story of the murders of Heather Frank and Scott Sessions are featured in a “20/20” episode airing Friday, June 2, at 9 p.m. ET.

Investigators searched Sessions’ home, hoping for clues that would point to a motive – or the killer. They analyzed data from Sessions’ cell phone to try to pinpoint his last location. “Those records will also tell you last made phone calls, last received phone calls or last received telephone numbers that you sent a message to,” said Atwood. They ultimately concluded his phone last pinged 3 miles from his home.

Police canvassed that area and found Sessions’ car in the parking lot of a supermarket. The keys were still in the ignition and the floor mat was outside, underneath the vehicle. When they pulled the footage from nearby security cameras, “they were able to see someone get out of the driver's side, walk around the car and then ultimately walk away from the car on foot,” Weld County’s Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wrenn told “20/20.” The video was from the day after Sessions’ body was discovered, so authorities knew he wasn’t the driver.

The huge break in the case came when investigators gained access to Sessions’ Facebook Messenger account using passwords retrieved from his home. “Scott was having a Facebook Messenger conversation with whom we identified as Heather Frank,” recalled Detective Atwood.

Heather Frank was a local waitress Sessions recently met and was casually seeing. “It appeared she was very taken with Scott. She was a very beautiful woman and I remember the look on her face when she was watching Scott,” remembered his bandmate, Eddie Gavaldón.

Frank, a divorced mother of three, was described by her friends and family as fun-loving and stylish. In an interview with “20/20,” Heather’s oldest son, Alexander McLaughlin, described them as “inseparable” and “best friends.” It was clear to their friends that Sessions and Frank connected over a shared love of music.

PHOTO: Heather Frank is shown with two of her children in this undated photo.
Heather Frank is shown with two of her children in this undated photo.
Courtesy of Alex McLaughlin

Sessions’ last conversation with Frank was on February 8 - the pair planned to meet at her apartment. Detectives eventually concluded that Sessions’ phone died or was turned off in the early morning hours of February 9 inside Frank’s apartment.

Frank was considered the last person to see Sessions alive. Police began to surveil her and saw she was with a male, who they later identified as Kevin Eastman, her on-again, off-again boyfriend of more than five years. Background checks revealed the couple had a tumultuous relationship with multiple reports of alleged domestic abuse. Eastman pleaded guilty in 2015 to misdemeanor assault against Frank.

“He probably proposed three or four times that I was aware of,” recalled Frank’s close friend, Kimberly Shearer. “She didn’t want to be tied to that forever. But as hard as she tried to get away from him, it just got harder and harder every time.”

Police subpoenaed records for the cell phones of Frank and Eastman and saw they were in the apartment together with Sessions. They also learned that just a few hours after Sessions’ cell phone went dark, Frank’s and Eastman’s cell phones traveled together toward Poudre Canyon, where Sessions’ body was later found. Security cameras outside an amphitheater spotted Eastman’s car going westbound up the canyon and traveling back down within a 3-hour time frame. Cell phone records also showed Eastman and Frank traveled back to her apartment after leaving the canyon.

This major break in the case led detectives to issue warrants for the arrest of Heather Frank and Kevin Eastman. To collect more evidence, investigators followed Eastman and Frank’s movements by placing tracking devices on their vehicles and a surveillance camera in front of Frank’s home.

On the evening of February 15, Frank was seen leaving her apartment with Eastman following closely behind her. Frank, appearing to be unstable on her feet, got into the passenger seat of Eastman’s car. The next day, Eastman’s vehicle was tracked driving across rural Colorado areas and making multiple stops.

Larimer County Lt. Donnie Robbins, who was monitoring Eastman’s movements, became suspicious; he said he thought Eastman may have been destroying crucial evidence. Robbins then observed Eastman tending a large fire on the property of his former employer Troy Bonnell. When Eastman pulled into a nearby gas station, he was arrested.

PHOTO: ABC News' Matt Gutman is shown talking to Larimer County investigator Donnie Robbins during a recent interview.
ABC News' Matt Gutman is shown talking to Larimer County investigator Donnie Robbins during a recent interview.
ABC News

During his questioning, Eastman was pressed about Frank's whereabouts. He claimed he hadn’t seen Frank but said that she was likely at work. Video of his interrogation showed that when detectives left Eastman alone in the room, he acted oddly: at one point he got in his knees and prayed, then sang “Amazing Grace.”

ABC News Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman asked Detective Atwood, “Do you think this is all theater?” Atwood explained, “it could be or he's actually feeling the stress of it. You can hear his breathing. He's taking a lot of deep breaths, because I think he's starting to feel some of the pressure of where this conversation's going.”

After several hours, the interrogation was interrupted - another body had been found. Inside a burn pit on Bonnell’s property, investigators would find the body of Heather Frank. Right then, Eastman was charged for the deaths of Scott Sessions and Heather Frank.

It took over two years for Eastman’s trial to begin. “This case was about domestic violence, and we wanted to make sure that the jury understood that power and control ultimately was what killed Heather Frank and Scott Sessions,” Weld County’s Deputy District Attorney Yvette Guthrie shared with “20/20.” DNA evidence suggested Eastman ambushed Sessions with a large knife inside the doorway. Alternatively, the defense claimed it was not Eastman but Frank who murdered Sessions, and that Eastman helped dispose of the body.

PHOTO: ABC News' Matt Gutman is shown talking to Larimer County investigator Justin Atwood during a recent interview.
ABC News' Matt Gutman is shown talking to Larimer County investigator Justin Atwood during a recent interview.
ABC News

On July 20, 2022, a jury found 50-year-old Kevin Eastman guilty of first-degree murder for the killings of Heather Frank and Scott Sessions. Eastman was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus an additional 27 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. He still maintains his innocence and is currently in the process of appealing his case.

On the day Eastman was sentenced, Stan Sessions gave a victim’s impact statement saying, “I will not let him or anyone else determine my happiness for the rest of my life.” Others who loved Sessions find forgiveness hard to come by. “I wish I was able to forgive him the way Scott Sessions' dad has forgiven him. I'm not there,” Sherrie Peif, Sessions’ longtime friend, admitted to “20/20.”

Frank’s oldest son, Alexander McLaughlin, explained, “she was a great woman. She was a beautiful mother, and she loved all of us and all of her friends. She just ended up being a part of something that she didn't ask for. She was a victim.”