Harrisburg woman charged in murder of ex-husband in Columbia County

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Maria Sanutti-Spencer

A Harrisburg woman and her father are facing criminal homicide charges, as well as various charges related to a residential burglary and two separate house fires, for the murder of Frank Spencer in Columbia County in 2012.

Maria Sanutti-Spencer, 49, of 4096 Continental Drive Harrisburg, and her father Anthony Rocco Franklin, 72, address unknown, murder victim Frank Spencer’s ex-wife and -father-in-law, respectively, are charged with his brutal execution-style murder in July 2012. Franklin, a fugitive, is currently on state parole and a warrant has been issued for his arrest on a parole violation.

Attorney General Kane said evidence and testimony from a joint cooperative investigation with the Pennsylvania State Police was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges being filed today.

According to the grand jury, between 2009 and 2012 Sanutti-Spencer and Franklin engaged in a pattern of behavior that elicited fear and intimidation in Spencer, his family and friends. A series of connected crimes eventually led to Spencer’s death.

The grand jury found that Spencer reported threats on his life to law enforcement on numerous occasions. By the beginning of 2012, grand jury testimony revealed that Spencer believed he was going to be murdered and allegedly reported to family and friends that there was nothing he could do to prevent it.

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Frank Spencer

In late January 2010, Spencer’s Millville Road home burned to the ground. Within weeks of the fire, Sanutti-Spencer allegedly bragged about being responsible and later threatened to set fire to Spencer’s girlfriend’s home. That home eventually was set on fire in August 2010.

Spencer’s mother and girlfriend became concerned about him when he failed to answer their repeated phone calls and texts, and when he failed to show up for his son’s baseball game. Mrs. Spencer asked a family friend to go and check on her son, who was eventually found deceased in his Hemlock Township home.

According to the grand jury, Spencer was shot twice. The first shot was allegedly fired from a rifle and the second shot, to the victim’s head, was fired from a small caliber weapon. A search of the wooded ridge across from the Spencer home was conducted and officers located a sniper’s nest that was approximately 115 feet from the front door.

After the murder Spencer’s dog and his truck were both missing from the home. The dog was recovered in Halifax Township, Dauphin County, approximately 12 miles from where Franklin was living at the time, and 72 miles from the murder scene. The truck was eventually found a few blocks from the Brass Key Bar, which is owned and operated by Franklin’s son.

The grand jury found that Sanutti-Spencer continued to make threatening statements to Spencer’s family and friends following the murder.

Sanutti-Spencer is charged with: one count of criminal homicide; one count of criminal solicitation to commit criminal homicide; one count of criminal conspiracy; one count of burglary; one count of receiving stolen property; one count of criminal solicitation to commit burglary; four counts of arson and related offenses; two counts of criminal solicitation to commit arson and related offenses; one count of criminal attempt/criminal homicide; four counts of terroristic threats; and 15 counts of perjury.

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Anthony Rocco Franklin

Franklin is charged with: one count of criminal homicide; one count of criminal conspiracy; one count of burglary; four counts of arson and related offenses; one count of criminal attempt/criminal homicide; and one count of terroristic threats.

Anyone with information regarding Franklin’s whereabouts or information relating to this case is encouraged to contact the Pennsylvania State Police Bloomsburg Barracks at 570-387-4701.

Attorney General Kane thanked the troopers and officers from the Pennsylvania State Police who assisted with the investigation.

The case will be prosecuted in Columbia County by Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Forray of the Office of Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecutions Section.

1 Comment

  • MyViewpoint

    So despite the connected fires and declaration from the victim, the system failed to act until he was dead. Way to go.

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