Police in central Pennsylvania are investigating the shooting death of a used car and scrap dealer as a homicide.
State police in Columbia County said they found the body of shop owner Frank Spencer, 46, inside the front doorway of his home near Millville, PA, on July 3. Spencer’s body was first discovered by a friend who had stopped by the Hemlock Township home around 10:40 a.m.
On July 4, the victim’s truck was discovered in Sunbury, about 25 miles from his home. State police at Bloomsburg had put out an all-points bulletin for a 2003 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson edition truck owned by Spencer.
Columbia County Deputy Coroner Linda Kessler says an autopsy was planned to verify the cause of death.
Spencer, who was recently divorced, had complained repeatedly to Hemlock Township police, state police and anyone else who would listen in recent years about threats being made against his life. Spencer was a 1984 graduate of the Bloomsburg High School, where he was a well-known member of the wrestling team, and a 1988 graduate of the Bloomsburg University.
Spencer spelled out his concerns about the alleged threats against him in court documents filed in Columbia County a few years ago.
Accompanied by his then-attorney, Joel Wiest, of Sunbury, Spencer and his girlfriend, Julie Dent, spoke with The Daily Item in November 2010 after both of their homes were burned down within seven months of each other that year.
In January 2010, the Millville Road house in Hemlock Township Spencer shared with his mother burned to the ground. A cause was never determined, but Spencer was convinced the fire was set.
Dent was asleep in her Old Valley School Road home in Columbia County in August 2010 when a fire woke her. She escaped by jumping out of a second-floor window. The blaze was ruled an arson by state police, but no charges were ever filed.
Spencer claimed he received specific threats before each fire and reported them to local and state police, to no avail.
State trooper Patrick Finn, of Bloomsburg, the lead criminal investigator in the case, said he is aware of the complaints as well as a long and contentious divorce Spencer waged with his former wife, Maria Sanutti Spencer, the mother of his two children, ages 13 and 11, which was recently finalized. At one point, Spencer filed a protection-from-abuse order against her.
“It’s no secret they had a bad break-up. (Spencer) made that known to everyone,” Finn said. Finn would not say if there were any suspects in Spencer’s death.
Friend Kevin Halye said he was in shock after finding out one of his close friends died. Halye went to school with Spencer and knew him for 35 years.
“Just total devastation. I’ve known the guy forever and he’s been a really good friend of mine. It’s just a total tragedy. I can’t believe it happened,” Halye said.
Halye said racing was one of Spencer’s biggest passions. He said Frank even sponsored several of his cars. He said former NASCAR driver Jimmy Spencer was his cousin, and Frank raced at tracks all over the country with his son.
Friends said Spencer was well liked, well-known around the Bloomsburg area and was passionate about cars, and they could always find him at his auto body shop.