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Family Says State Failed Victim as Her Estranged Husband Pleads Not Guilty in Her Murder

  • Frank Sanville, of South Royalton, Vt., walks into the courtroom before his arraignment on first-degree murder and four lesser charges at the Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on March 16, 2018. Sanville pleaded not guilty. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Wanda Sanville in an undated family photograph. (Family photograph)

  • Todd Hosmer, Wanda Sanville's brother, talks about the night his sister was murdered after Frank Sanville, of South Royalton, Vt., was arraigned on first-degree murder and four lesser charges at Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on March 16, 2018. Hosmer said his 5-year-old son was playing a game with Sanville the night of the incident. Hosmer added that he thought Sanville shared "no remorse." (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Family and friends attended the arraignment for Frank Sanville, of South Royalton, Vt., who is suspected of fatally shooting his estranged wife, Wanda Sanville. From left, Gail Shute, who is married to Wanda Sanville’s cousin; Rachel Chapin, Wanda Sanville's sister-in-law; Tina Swasey, Wanda Sanville’s sister; and Laina Robinson, Swasey’s daughter, wait outside the courtroom at Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on March 16, 2018. The woman on the right was not identified. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2018

White River Junction — Family members of Wanda Sanville, the 48-year-old woman shot to death earlier this month at her home in South Royalton, said state officials failed to protect her from her estranged husband, Frank Sanville, who pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder on Friday and will be held without bail.

Newly released affidavits detail what police believe to have happened on the morning of March 4, when friends of Sanville’s allegedly drove him to a spot near his wife’s home, watching him load a .22-caliber rifle on the way.

Todd Hosmer, Wanda’s brother, was present for the shooting and fought off Sanville afterward, but said the event itself was a blur.

“It happened so fast,” Hosmer told reporters on Friday, after Sanville’s arraignment in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction. “I don’t know — he walked in, and then, ‘boom.’ ”

Wanda Sanville was sitting on a couch with a 5-year-old who Hosmer referred to as his son.

The child told police that he saw Sanville quietly enter the house through a sliding door, and then shoot Wanda Sanville in the back of the neck.

After that, the affidavits allege, Sanville cocked the gun, a single-shot .22-caliber rifle, and told Hosmer, “You’re next.” Hosmer grabbed the gun and jammed it into Sanville’s forehead. After wrestling the rifle away, Hosmer struck Sanville three times with the butt of the weapon, and then took the child to another house to call 911, leaving Sanville apparently unconscious on the floor.

Police later located Sanville hiding in a barn less than half a mile away. In the interim, he made phone calls to relatives, telling them he was “on the run” and advising them to hold on to possessions he had left behind, according to the affidavits.

Police said they found bullets in Sanville’s pockets and blood on his clothing. His injuries from the fight with Hosmer required treatment, first at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph and then at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

Investigators also interviewed Howard Capen and Junice Thurston, the friends of Sanville’s who said they picked him up in White River Junction on the morning of March 4, made a stop at his sister’s house in Royalton and then dropped him off “within eyesight” of his wife’s Happy Hollow Road home.

At the Route 110 residence of Sanville’s sister, Evelyn “Maggie” West, Sanville commented on a rifle hanging above her couch, telling her not to fire it because it could “essentially, blow up,” Junice Thurston told state police, the affidavit said.

The Wests have told the Valley News they have no firearms in their house.

On the road afterward, Capen told police, he noticed Sanville was loading a gun, and told Sanville he should not try to load a firearm while in a moving vehicle. When Sanville got out, he asked his friends to wait, but they declined and drove away.

The police affidavit did not explicitly say whether Sanville had taken a gun from his sister’s home, though both are described as .22-caliber rifles.

Friday’s arraignment lasted only a few minutes, long enough for Sanville’s attorney to enter a not guilty plea to the first-degree murder charge, three felony charges of aggravated assault, and a misdemeanor charge of firearm possession after conviction for a violent crime.

He faces life imprisonment on the first-degree murder charge.

Sanville, who is 70 years old, was on furlough from a two- to 12-month sentence stemming from a domestic assault conviction in February, and Wanda Sanville’s family said she had received threats from him in the weeks before the shooting.

He has several prior convictions dating back at least to 2005, including domestic assault, disorderly conduct, simple assault and prohibited sexual acts.

The family said they asked authorities to keep holding Sanville, citing the danger he posed to his estranged wife.

Hosmer said he was at Wanda Sanville’s home on March 4 because she feared her husband.

“We’ve called his (parole officer) about this many times,” Hosmer said of Sanville on Friday. “ ... The man did nothing about it.”

“I don’t think the family could have done any more,” Gail Shute, who is married to one of Wanda Sanville’s cousins, told reporters on Friday. “But I think the state could pick it up a little.”

In an obituary, Wanda Sanville’s family said she had a “great love of animals” and would “do anything for her animals or for someone in need of her help.”

“She loved her animals,” Shute said. “She took care of them. You  couldn’t ask for a better person.”

Rob Wolfe can be reach ed at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Clarification

The recollection that Frank Sanville remarked upon a .22-caliber rifle hanging on the wall of the home of his sister not long before he is alleged to have shot and killed his estranged wife, Wanda Sanville, on March 4 with a .22-caliber rifle was based on information provided to state police by Junice Thurston, according to a police affidavit filed at Windsor Superior Court. Thurston and Howard Capen gave Frank Sanville a ride from White River Junction to his sister’s house on the morning of the murder, according to the affidavit, and then dropped him off close to Wanda Sanville’s residence in South Royalton. Frank Sanville’s sister, Evelyn “Maggie” West, and her husband, David West, say they have no firearms in their house. An earlier version of this story failed to attribute the recollection of what occurred inside the Wests’ house to Thurston.