CASE UPDATE: “Black Widow” Father Convicted of First-Degree Murder

October 18, 2018 | Topic: Criminal

Anthony Rocco Franklin Faces Life Plus an Additional 85 Years in Prison for Murder of Former Son-In-Law

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that a jury found a Columbia County man guilty of first degree murder and other charges in the execution-style slaying of his former son-in-law.

Anthony Rocco Franklin, 76, fled to South America in 2013, after he testified before a statewide investigating grand jury probing the murder of Franklin’s former son-in-law, Frank Spencer, who was fatally shot at his home in Hemlock Township near Bloomsburg, Columbia County. Franklin fought extradition for two and a half years before being extradited to America in April 2017 to face trial on the charges. His daughter – with whom Franklin conspired to kill Spencer – Maria Sanutti-Spencer, famously dubbed the “Black Widow” killer, was convicted of first-degree murder in November 2015 and is currently serving a life sentence plus 50 years for the homicide of her ex-husband.

“Franklin fled the country to avoid being prosecuted for his role in this brutal murder, but today our office held him accountable for the homicide of Frank Spencer,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Today – six years after his July 2012 murder – we’ve taken them down and Frank Spencer’s family has justice for his ruthless killing.”

Franklin was recently found guilty of murder in the first degree, criminal conspiracy, burglary, two counts of arson and terroristic threats. The murder conviction results in an automatic life sentence. Sentencing will be scheduled within 90 days.

During the trial, prosecutors from the Office of Attorney General argued that Franklin and Sanutti-Spencer’ motive was to control and terrorize Spencer. Prosecutors also said that Franklin wanted to exact revenge on Spencer for disrespecting him.

A statewide investigating grand jury recommended the criminal charges against Franklin and Sanutti-Spencer. Between 2009 and 2012, Franklin and Sanutti-Spencer engaged in a pattern of behavior that elicited fear and intimidation in Spencer, his family and friends.

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

Attorney General Shapiro thanked the Pennsylvania State Police and Cpl. Shawn Williams for their work on this investigation. “The Pennsylvania State Police were a strong partner to our office during this investigation and our efforts to bring Franklin back to Pennsylvania to face these charges.”

Attorney General Shapiro also thanked U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta and Tom Marino for working with federal authorities to help facilitate Franklin’s return. “We’re grateful to Congressmen Barletta and Marino for their involvement and help in the extradition of Mr. Franklin back to Pennsylvania to face justice in this case,” Shapiro said. “Because of your help, we were able to secure this conviction.”

Franklin was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Forray and Deputy Attorney General Philip McCarthy of the Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecutions Section.

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