The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

July 4, 2014

2 years later, murdered man’s pleas for aid echo

SUNBURY — Of the many strange statements that surface during divorce proceedings, few match Frank Spencer’s. Spencer said he feared he would be killed by two bullets and he was.

Spencer, 46, was shot to death at his 20 Fairview Drive, Hemlock Township home in Columbia County on July 3, 2012, once in the head and once in the chest.

The theory, expressed in court documents, is that Spencer was shot on the front porch of his home and dragged inside the front door where he was found.

The day after the killing, Spencer’s black and silver 2003 Ford F-150 pickup was located parked on a street in Sunbury. Paperwork from his recently finalized divorce were found inside the vehicle.

“This is an active investigation,” said lead investigator Shawn Williams of the Pennsylvania State Police, who is stationed at the Bloomsburg barracks. “This is not a cold case by any means.”

Spencer had ties to Northumberland and Snyder counties. His former in-laws live there and his one-time divorce attorney, Joel Wiest, has a law practice in Sunbury.

The slain auto shop owner was vocal about his fears that he would be killed, even predicting how he would die, Wiest said.

“Frank claimed to me on numerous occasions that he would be killed if he went through with the divorce. He said it would be two bullets in his head and that he would never make it out of the divorce alive,” Wiest said.

In November 2010, Spencer spoke candidly to The Daily Item about his fears in the months after his mother’s home burned to the ground followed by his girlfriend Julie Dent’s house being deliberately set on fire as she slept inside.

The origin of the fire at Madeline Spencer’s house was not determined and no arrests have been made in connection with the second blaze.

Wiest said he prompted Spencer to tell his story to the newspaper after he had tried to get law enforcement to investigate his claims that the fires were deliberately set by someone who warned him they would do it.

“We went to the township police, the state police, the state attorney general’s office and the FBI,” the attorney said, adding that nothing ever came of the meetings. “Frank even offered to wear a wire.”

Contacted in 2010 about Spencer’s claims, then-Montour County District Attorney Robert Buehner said threats aren’t enough to levy charges since a defendant could argue they were uttered in the heat of passion. He added that arson investigations are often complicated and time-consuming due to the technical and scientific testing required.

Wiest said he never doubted Spencer, who spelled out his claims in court papers filed in Montour County more than a year before his death.

“Frank was inherently a tough, happy-go-lucky guy, but he was also afraid,” Wiest said, adding that the father of two was also “stubborn.”

Months after the slaying, dozens of state troopers searched a wooded area off Route 11 between Danville and Sunbury with metal detectors looking for what authorities said was “a key piece of evidence.”

Police have not said whether anything was found and declined to discuss details developed during their investigation, which they say continues to this day.

Attempts to obtain comment and updates from members of Spencer’s family, including his former wife and his mother, were unsuccessful.

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