Peacock’s ‘Meet, Marry, Murder: Spencer’ recounts the brutal murder of Frank Spencer, a 46-year-old local businessman, which took place in front of his residence in Millville, Pennsylvania, in early July 2012. His former wife, Maria Sanutti-Spencer, was convicted of his murder, though she has maintained to date that she is innocent and blames her father.
Who Is Maria Sanutti-Spencer?
On July 3, 2012, successful local businessman Frank T. Spencer, 46, was found dead inside his Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, residence. He was shot once in the torso with a .30-caliber rifle and in the head and neck from close range with a .357 Magnum handgun. His friend, Deanna Reed, stated, “We knew it was Maria. We didn’t know who else might have been involved. But we knew it was her.” Maria Sanutti-Spencer, a 126-pound, 5-foot, 5-inch-tall woman and kidney transplant recipient, eloped with Frank in 1997 and had two children.
Pennsylvania Senior Deputy Attorney General Tony Forray stated, “Maria Spencer, to me, is a classic femme fatale. An attractive woman, a seductress who, when a man becomes involved with her — this is going to end poorly.” Frank’s friends observed that the former wife lacked interest in family life, sharply contrasting his viewpoint. His lifelong friend, Joe Yodock, recounted, “Frank was disappointed that she wasn’t taking much interest in the kids.” As the marriage began to crumble, Frank initiated divorce proceedings in 2006.
Police responded to multiple calls regarding domestic disputes, with his friends stating Maria’s emotional state appeared highly unstable. In 2008, she faced legal trouble when she was arrested following an altercation with Frank’s mother at her daughter’s school. Charges against her included disorderly conduct, harassment, and child endangerment due to an alleged failure to secure her daughter in the car. Maria ultimately pleaded guilty and was fined $600, but this judgment intensified her anger.
She continued to make repeated threats to kill Frank, often in the presence of others. Frank had been reporting these threats to the local police for an extended period. By 2009, the Spencers’ tumultuous divorce had endured for three long years, lacking immediate resolution. Frank had started to heal emotionally and had entered a relationship with Julie Dent, initially brought together by mutual friends. Maria’s reaction was far from positive, primarily upon discovering that Julie had spent time with their children.
In a voicemail to Julie in February 2009, Maria sternly warned her not to involve herself in the children’s lives while dating Frank. Tensions escalated further when Maria’s father, Anthony “Rocco” Franklin, was released from prison during the summer, known for his intimidating reputation. A few months later, a suspicious break-in occurred at Frank’s junkyard, resulting in the theft of crucial business records that could impact the divorce proceedings. Maria claimed in court she found these records in a trash bag on her mother’s porch.
Where Is Maria Sanutti-Spencer Now?
Despite Maria’s subtle intimidation tactics, Julie and Frank tried to maintain a semblance of normalcy. However, on the eve of their scheduled romantic Caribbean getaway in January 2010, Frank’s mother’s house, where he sometimes stayed, was consumed by a devastating fire. Maria persisted in her harassment of Julie, with the former screaming in her face that her home was next while attending a kids’ soccer game. The threats turned true, with Julie’s residence going mysteriously up in flames, though she managed to escape unharmed.
After the police found Maria’s DNA in a glove in Frank’s kitchen and his stolen trunk near her home, she became a person of interest. In 2013, Tony, erstwhile senior deputy attorney general, believed he had amassed sufficient evidence to file charges against Maria. Subsequently, she faced arrest in July 2014 and a litany of charges, including murder, two counts of arson, burglary, 12 counts of perjury, conspiracy, and making terror threats. She was found guilty on all charges in November 2015, resulting in a life sentence without parole and 50 years.
Maria, a former attorney, soccer coach, and volunteer, claimed from prison, “I got a life sentence for the misfortune of having a dad who is a sociopath and career criminal who got mad at my ex-husband and killed him.” She alleged she couldn’t have pulled the trigger due to her lack of strength, given her diabetes, and maintained she was far from Frank’s house on the day of the shooting. She claimed instead, she was at her mother’s residence in Selinsgrove, intending to spend the day with her boyfriend and son.
After being convicted, Maria fired her attorney on incompetency grounds and sought an evidentiary hearing in 2021 to determine whether her previous attorney provided ineffective counsel, warranting a new trial. During her trial, she had expressed her desire to have her children, Cyrus Spencer and Frankie Spencer, testify as witnesses, but her counsel did not allow their testimony. She also has submitted multiple motions, one of which asserts that her brother, Anthony Sanutti, testified during their father’s 2018 trial that Rocco had confessed to acting alone.
Maria claims her former counsel never informed her about her brother’s confession, and she remained unaware of it. She added, “I told my attorney I was not guilty of these things and had evidence to prove it. I trusted in what he said and trusted in the legal system.” She mentioned she was prohibited from informing the jury that she had injured her foot in a motorcycle accident just a few days before Frank’s murder outside his Millville residence. Following the accident, she had to wear a cast, and her mobility was severely restricted. Maria, now 58, is serving her sentence at SCI-Muncy.
Read More: Where is Rocco Franklin Now?