Nearly six years after she was convicted of murdering her estranged husband, Maria Sanutti-Spencer will be back in Columbia Court on Monday for a scheduled two-day Post Conviction Relief Act hearing.
Sanutti-Spencer, 55, of Selinsgrove, claims her then-attorney Christian Hoey, of Philadelphia, did not represent her best interests, during her week-long trial in 2015.
The case is listed to be heard by Somerset County Senior Judge David C. Klementik. There, Sanutti-Spencer will attempt to prove Hoey failed to represent her best interests while fighting the charges of murder.
Former Bloomsburg state police Cpl. Shawn Williams, now Shikellamy School District Police Chief, arrested Sanutti-Spencer and her father, Anthony “Rocco” Franklin, 77, of Harrisburg, in 2014 for the murder of Sanutti-Spencer’s ex-husband, Frank Spencer, 46, of Millville.
Williams said Sanutti-Spencer and her father plotted to kill Frank Spencer, who was found shot to death in his Millville home on July 2, 2012.
Sanutti-Spencer, through her new attorney Frank McCabe, of Kingston, Luzerne County, is asking that the courts grant an evidentiary hearing to determine if Hoey was ineffective and thus she deserves a new trial.
Sanutti-Spencer said she wanted her children Cyrus Spencer and Frankie Spencer as witnesses during her trial, but Hoey did not allow them to testify.
Both are expected to testify in the Columbia County hearing.
Sanutti-Spencer has filed several motions, including one that says her brother, Anthony Sanutti, testified during their father’s trial in 2018 that Franklin admitted to Anthony Sanutti that he acted alone when he shot and killed Frank Spencer.
Sanutti-Spencer said Hoey never told her her father admitted to the crime and she had no idea.
Sanutti-Spencer was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Franklin was also found guilty in 2018 of murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Sanutti-Spencer says Hoey lied to her during her trial.
Sanutti-Spencer said she wanted for her son, Cyrus Spencer, to testify that she was with him at the time of the murder but that Hoey decided to not call her son as a witness.
Sanutti-Spencer alleges Hoey did not call the two witnesses because “they would not have made good witnesses as they were African American and it’s a small-town jury.”
State police contend either Sanutti-Spencer or Franklin hid in a tree stand and shot Spencer while the other shot Spencer at point blank range.
Sanutti-Spencer said she was shocked when Hoey refused to let her testify.
“A defendant who doesn’t take the stand is a convicted man,” Sanutti-Spencer wrote in the filing.
“He had my sister try to talk me out of it. I would not change my mind. On the last day of my trial, we got into a huge argument and I started to cry. He told me if I didn’t do as he advises, he is leaving.”
The hearing is expected to begin both days at 9 a.m. in the Columbia County Courthouse, in Bloomsburg.