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Boca Raton man confesses to 'crime of love' 30 years later

Mystery water tower proposal solved
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Posted at 7:47 PM, Mar 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 05:25:35-04

A Boca Raton man has a secret to tell.

Frank Mckinney is coming clean about a crime he committed in the name of passion and love.

"A confession, 28 years in the making," said Mckinney. "On Sept. 12, 1989, I scaled a barbed wire fence with a 20-foot long banner. Climbed 130 feet to the top, with a marriage proposal to my wife."

The move baffled news media back then and police never found out who did it. But now that the tower is being demolished, Mckinney is stepping forward.

"If the police are watching, I plead for your mercy, leniency," he joked.

Now, that the abandoned tower is being demolished, Frank and his wife, Nilsa are reminiscing about that night.

In 1989, a 20-something Mckinney trespassed on private property one night and climbed up the water tower off Dixie Highway in Boca Raton to profess his love to Nilsa. The two had dated for about two years.

"Dressed up like an Army guy, in fatigues and camouflage. I had black things under my eyes," he recounted. "This was like a military operation to me. I was so sincere about going out and buying these clothes and then drafting the neighbors into service."

After hanging up the banner, he rented a huge spotlight and enlisted the help of nearby neighbors to use their electricity. After treating her to dinner, he brought a blindfolded Nilsa to the tower and proposed.

"He said, 'If you don't say yes, I'm going back up there.' And I was like, 'Oh! Oh! Oh! Yes! Yes! Yes!'" Nilsa remembered.

The lofty love note gained attention from police and local media. The couple framed clippings from local newspapers of the frenzy over who put up the banner.

"I don't know how he got up there, but they're crazy," reads one article from the Sun Sentinel. 

The same article quotes a joke by maintenance worker Rick Conway, "I hope she doesn't go up there with a response."

"Why someone would go up there to risk their life for that, I don't know,"' reads another article.

On Wednesday, the couple returned to the old water tower.

"This is where it all started," said Mckinney, looking at the tower.

It's now in pieces as crews continue to demolish it.

"To see it in pieces... It's sad. But I'm glad that our marriage is intact," Mckinney said.

But the couple didn't leave without getting a picture and a piece of the tower to bring back home.

"I would climb that water tower for her today," said Mckinney.

Nilsa has some advice for those married and soon-to-be.

"Life is such a wonderful gift. And if you find somebody to enjoy that gift with, you are so blessed," she said.  "I could not see my life complete, if it wasn't with him."

Mckinney has advice for those hoping to pop the question.

"Take the time to plan your proposal. Once the proposal is done and the honeymoon is over and she asks you to take out the garbage, you gotta stick with it. We're 27 years later and we're sticking with it," he said.

The banner stayed up on the tower for 40 days in 1989, before blowing off. The couple saved it, but it's been lost over time.

WPTV checked a few houses, but unfortunately, residents say none of the original neighbors are still in the area.

Boca Raton Police said none of their officers who remember the incident are still on the force but they added that Mckinney of course, will not face any charges.

According to the city's website, the steel water tank is one of two being removed. The towers were built in 1958 and were unused for more than a decade.

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