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Biography: Frank Tuttle, victim's former boyfriend and Oxtales member
 

Frank Sheldon Tuttle was born June 8, 1970, in Biloxi, Mississippi. His father, Eugene Tuttle, hailed from Jackson and came to Biloxi as an Air Force trainee. He liked the Gulf Coast town so much that after a tour of duty in Vietnam and a subsequent honorable discharge, he returned to Biloxi in the hopes of enrolling at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast campus. He took a semester of courses at the Gulf Coast Community College in the spring of 1969, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Camille, Eugene found lucrative work in construction and never returned to college. In 1977 he purchased a trawler and set up a sport fishing charter business as a sideline. He was active in the local Chamber of Commerce and was a vocal proponent of bringing casino gambling to Mississippi; after dockside gaming was legalized in 1990, Biloxi enjoyed a renaissance and Eugene was able to devote all his energies to marketing and expanding his sport fishing tours.

Eugene met Delia Eleanor Rowell, a nurse at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, shortly after moving to Biloxi and they married in January of 1970. After a difficult pregnancy, Delia stayed at home with Frank for a year, then returned to work – first as a part-time nurses' aide for the Biloxi Public School District, then returning to Memorial Hospital full-time when Frank was in third grade. Delia volunteers as Biloxi Little Theatre's piano accompanist and always encouraged Frank's interest in music and theatre.

Eugene and Delia raised Frank in a small home in Biloxi's Back Bay and participated fully in community life. Frank's early years were highlighted by annual events such as Mardi Gras, the Blessing of the Fleet and the Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. The family frequently visited Delia's relatives in Tampa, Florida, and toured around the South by car on vacations, venturing as far as Key West, Florida and Nashville, Tennessee. While visiting Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, Frank, then aged 8, declared he wanted to be a musician just like Elvis when he grew up.

Frank excelled in elementary school, where his teachers found him boisterous but creative. He was reading at a 7th grade level in 5th grade; Eugene and Delia briefly considered having Frank skip a year, but decided not to in the end for fear his social interactions would suffer. By 8th grade, Frank had become more than a handful – easily distracted from schoolwork and prone to antics that won laughter from friends but disrupted the class. He was suspended for two days following a particularly elaborate prank in which Frank mounted atop the school's entrance portico a dummy dressed as principal Elinor Snowdon baring her breasts for Mardi Gras beads.

Despite such tomfoolery, Frank was extremely serious about music. He asked for piano lessons for his 10th birthday and practiced without fail – or prompting – several times a week. For Christmas in 1984, Eugene and Delia gave him an electric guitar – with the stipulation that it would be locked away if his school antics caused any trouble. Delia saw music as a healthy outlet for Frank's excess energies and talents; by contrast, Eugene thought strict discipline, not rock and roll, was the best way to solve the problem. While Delia tended to look the other way when Frank missed curfew or failed to do chores, Eugene grounded him routinely.

But father and son did share a common interest – boating. In summers during high school, Frank worked for Eugene on the charter boat, doing maintenance and learning to navigate the waters off the Gulf shore. Frank was an excellent swimmer and diver, enjoyed hanging out on the beach with his friends, and toyed with the idea of studying marine biology in college.

But Frank's passion for music outweighed his academic zeal. In high school, he maintained respectable but unspectacular grades, preferring to focus his energies on the band, the Flesh Zealots. The group was popular at school events, and Frank had his share of female admirers, who he occasionally dated. His only serious relationship was with the drummer, Phoebe Atwater, an eccentric straight-A student with lime-green highlights in her hair. When she broke up with him over Christmas break their senior year, he not only kicked her out of the band, but spent the following semester composing malicious ballads about her ("Your hair/Is the color of the bile/That festers within your lair/Of hatred"); the lyrics alarmed school officials, who forbade the band from playing any more at school functions.

The romantic breakup signaled the beginning of the end for the Flesh Zealots, and by graduation in the spring of 1989 Frank's plans to tour the state with the band were in disarray. He had not applied to college, and decided to take a year off to work on the boat and consider his options. But when family Christmas festivities disintegrated into a shouting match between Frank and Eugene, who had taken to calling his son a "free-loader," Frank decided the time had come to move out.

Frank left Biloxi on New Year's Day 1990 and headed to Oxford, where he stayed with a friend who was enrolled at Ole Miss. Easy-going and lively as always, Frank quickly made friends with other students and settled into life at Oxford. He got a part-time job as a clerk at Square Books while continuing to pursue his musical interests by playing guitar with local bands such as the Shrimp Fancies and the Hound Dogs. He also became interested in theatre, and began composing music for local productions. In 1991 he tried out for, and won, a place in the Hooligans improvisational theatre group.

Although Frank had quickly become a fixture in Oxford's arts scene, his personal life was more unsettled. He dated erratically, and was prone to move from obsessive crush to indifference in the space of a week. Frank's relationships were often rocky, and he was prone to dramatic displays of emotion, from filling a lover's car with rose petals to denouncing his exes while standing atop the bar at Proud Larry's.

In 1993 Frank settled into a relationship with Ellen Mayberry, a graduate student in history. Her calm demeanor was a foil for his rambunctiousness, and she persuaded him to focus his energies on applying to Ole Miss. Frank took several required general education classes in the fall semester, but then dropped out, saying he preferred to focus on work; in March of 1994 he left his job at Square Books for a part-time University position as an assistant at the blues archive. Ellen grew impatient with his meandering and broke off the relationship that summer; Frank rebounded in a succession of casual relationships that lasted into the fall. Feeling embittered and exhausted, over the holidays Frank returned home for the first time since 1990; although his parents were less than thrilled with his lack of vocation, the reunion was peaceful.

When he returned to Oxford in January of 1995, Frank heard about a job opening with Oxtales, then a fledgling company with a flair for the unusual. Although he lacked stage management expertise, Frank was hired for his broad knowledge of theatre and music. Although paid for just 15 hours a week plus rehearsals and shows, Frank quickly became engrossed with the company, taking on acting roles as well as his stage management duties. Although he kept his job with at the University, Oxtales became his main passion.

Frank quickly hit it off with Andrea Stover, another recent arrival at Oxtales. He was impressed by her nervy ideas, and his quick wit and spontaneity were refreshing for her. They became friends, then lovers. But for once, Frank's partner proved more fickle than he: Andrea broke off the relationship in 1999, claiming they were too serious and that their monogamous relationship was stunting her artistic growth. Andrea did allow for occasional renewal of their romance, which Frank accepted.

By then Oxtales' notoriety had spread, and in 2000 Frank was arrested, along with Andrea and assistant director Dale King, in connection with several teenagers' involvement in the sexually explicit production "Snopes." Frank pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a fine and community service work. He fulfilled the requirements of his sentence in September of 2001 and continues to work as Oxtales' stage manager.

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