WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – The trial of the 74-year-old South Royalton man accused of walking into his estranged wife’s home and fatally shooting her more than three years ago is likely to be held in Windham County early next year due to HVAC issues with the White River Junction courthouse, officials said Wednesday.
Frank Sanville is still being held without bail at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., after pleading innocent in March 2018 to first degree murder and several other charges in the death of Wanda Sanville, 48. Frank Sanville walked out on her. Happy entered Hollow Road home and shot her in the neck with a .22-caliber rifle, according to an affidavit from police in the case.
At the time, Sanville was on leave for a domestic violence conviction and his wife’s family said he threatened her for the shooting. He also faces three aggravated assault charges and one firearms charge after being convicted of a violent crime in the case.
At a status conference Wednesday afternoon, Windsor County Attorney Ward Goodenough said “there are a number of final pieces to be resolved,” including some “final statements” and a pending motion regarding a defense expert expected to testify.
Although Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Mann filed an entry injunction in late August that the case would go to trial in November, both Goodenough and attorney Robert Sussman said in court on Wednesday that they were surprised by the timing. Sussman said he had another jury trial that month, which would make it difficult to prepare for Sanville’s trial as well.
Superior Court Judge John Treadwell, who chaired Wednesday’s status conference and is likely to hear the case in the future, said the November time frame had been suggested because of an unexpected opening for a jury trial in Windham County.
But he agreed to push back the date of the trial, though he said it would likely still be held in Brattleboro, Vt.
“As I understand it at this point, there’s no reason for the jury trial to take place anywhere other than Windham County,” Treadwell said.
In a telephone interview later Wednesday, Chief Justice Brian Grearson said jury trials and other personal proceedings were not held at the White River Junction courthouse during the COVID-19 pandemic because the building has “a compromised HVAC system” and that there was good air circulation. an important precaution.
The newly renovated courthouse in Woodstock has an adequate HVAC system and is used for a number of civil trials, but does not have the incarceration necessary to detain incarcerated suspects when they are not in court, he said. The Woodstock courthouse is handling some civil cases in Windham County due to HVAC restrictions with an older courthouse in Newfane, Vt.
Although the jury in a trial in the Sanville case would be pulled from a Windham County swimming pool if it takes place in Brattleboro, Goodenough, the district attorney, said in a telephone interview after the hearing that holding the trial there is a ” layer of complication”. to the procedure. The Brattleboro courthouse is 100 miles south of White River Junction, and the Sanville trial is expected to last six days, including the jury’s drawing.
“It is especially important on a logistics level. We are asking witnesses, victims, lawyers and other support personnel to drive much greater distances to participate in these trials,” Goodenough said.
Sanville’s status conference on Wednesday, which the defendant did not attend, was held via Webex software, with only the judge in court, but also had minor disruption. At one point during the discussion between the judge and two lawyers, the defendant in another case whose status conference was scheduled for the same time and who called from his home, intervened: “I don’t understand what is happening.”
A court official told him, “This is none of your business,” and put him on mute.
Asked about the incident, Grearson said, “Using technology in these circumstances certainly has its complications. It doesn’t always go as smoothly as you or I or the users of these systems would like.”
John P. Gregg can be reached at 603-727-3217 or [email protected]