Accused killer Anthony Rocco Franklin gets delay in case

Last updated: April 18, 2017 - 5:22pm

Anthony Rocco Franklin

BLOOMSBURG — Accused killer Anthony Rocco Franklin will get another month to find a lawyer, after a judge granted his request for a delay in his preliminary hearing Tuesday.

Franklin, 75, was “very polite” Tuesday as he requested more time before his first hearing in court, said District Judge Doug Brewer. 

Franklin told Brewer he would need a month to speak with lawyers who he is considering hiring to fight charges that he helped to murder Frank Spencer at Spencer’s Hemlock Township home in 2012.

Franklin, who is being held at Columbia County Prison while awaiting trial, spoke to Brewer over a video link.

His hearing had been scheduled for Monday morning in Columbia County’s main courtroom, but has now been rescheduled for Monday, May 22 at 8:30 a.m.

Brewer had scheduled the video conference to ask Franklin about his legal representation plans, since Franklin had not filed paperwork seeking a public defender nor had any attorney entered an appearance for him as of Tuesday afternoon.

“I asked what his intentions were about an attorney since time was getting near, and he said he would like a continuance,” Brewer said.

“He was very polite and asked no other questions. He’s always been polite to me,” the district judge added.

U.S. Marshals returned Franklin to the United States from Argentina last week. He had fled to South America in 2014 before the state Attorney General filed murder charges against him and his daughter, Maria Sanutti-Spencer.

He is also charged in arson fires set at Spencer’s used car and junkyard business at 1394 Millville Road; a break-in at the office there in which business records and financial documents were stolen; and a second arson at the Valley Township home of Spencer’s girlfriend, Julie Dent, in Montour County.

Police say Franklin conspired with Sanutti-Spencer to carry out those crimes during her contentious marriage to Spencer and the subsequent custody battle that led up to the couple’s divorce. Weeks after it was finalized, Spencer was murdered in July 2012.

Sanutti-Spencer, 52, was convicted of murdering Spencer in 2015 and is serving a sentence of life plus 54 years at the State Correctional Institute at Muncy in Lycoming County.

She has appealed the verdict and is asking for a new trial.

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