'Black Widow' soccer mom convicted of husband's execution-style murder
01/27/2016 8:00 am PST
Crime Watch Daily teams up with affiliate WNEP for new details on the twisted case that left one man dead, his ex-wife in jail and his father-in-law on the run.
Frank Spencer was a popular, well-liked guy in a small Pennsylvania town. He was found in his house near Millville, Penn., fatally shot execution-style in July 2012.
Police home in on two suspects: Spencer's wife, Maria Sanutti-Spencer, and her father, Anthony Franklin.
Maria and Frank had a boy and a girl. Frank owned Frank Spencer Auto Parts and sponsored race cars in the community. Maria was a beautiful, smart mom with a law degree and coached her daughter's soccer team.
But things in their marriage went downhill.
Maria allegedly told her co-workers multiple times she was going to kill Frank. A co-worker reportedly even gave her the nickname "Black Widow."
Eventually Frank and Maria split.
Maria allegedly set Frank's mom's and his new girlfriend's homes on fire, and threatened all their lives on multiple occasions. No charges were brought against Maria at the time of the threats.
But Maria's father, Anthony Rocco Franklin apparently didn't like Frank either. Reportedly while Anthony was in prison talking to a guard about Frank, he is alleged to have said: "I'll have him taken care of. I know people."
In the days leading up to Frank's murder, he allegedly told friends he knew it was coming.
One morning while on his front porch, Frank Spencer was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the head. He was then dragged inside the house. Two different weapons were used: a handgun and a rifle.
Frank's body was found by a close friend two days later. His truck was found a day after that a few blocks from a bar owned by one of Maria's family members. Police found a "sniper's nest" about 115 feet from Frank's front door.
Investigators believed Maria was responsible, and that she didn't act alone. Cops believed her father, Anthony Franklin, was the second shooter.
Two years later, Maria Sanutti-Spencer was arrested and charged with more than two dozen counts, including criminal homicide, burglary and arson.
Anthony Franklin fled to Argentina.
A year later Maria's case went to trial. The trial lasted two weeks. And after two days of deliberations, the jury came back with the verdict: guilty on all counts, including first-degree murder.
She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"I did not kill Frank Spencer and I never wanted Frank Spencer to die," Maria said. "I love that man, and not so much that I didn't want anyone else to have him."
One peculiar thing many noticed was that during the trial, and even after she was convicted, Maria was always smiling.
"I didn't kill him, so I try to be upbeat," said Maria. "I try to be positive. Everybody kept saying I was going to go home."
Maria maintains her innocence and now points the finger at who she says is the real killer.
Asked if her father killed Frank Spencer, Maria replied, "I believe so, yes, but he didn't do it for me."