New details released on fatal South Royalton shooting

Frank Sanville pleads innocent to first degree murder

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - New details emerged Friday about how a convicted domestic abuser who was out on furlough was able to acquire a hunting rifle and walk right up to his estranged wife and shoot her in the back of the head as she sat in her home earlier this month playing a game on an iPad with her 5-year-old nephew.

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    Frank Sanville, 70, stood quietly in a bright orange prisoner jacket as his defense attorney, Robert Sussman, entered innocent pleas on his behalf to four felony counts, which included first degree murder and first degree aggravated domestic assault, and to an accompanying misdemeanor count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

    With a possible life sentence hanging over Sanville's head, Judge Timothy Tomasi wasted little time ordering him held without bail pending his trial.  Even before the hearing began there was no question of Sanville getting out because less than two weeks before the shooting Sanville had been released on conditional furlough as part of a plea deal to a domestic assault charge that imposed an underlying sentence upon him which runs through the year 2020.

    The conditions of Sanville's now-revoked furlough required him to live in a halfway house in White River Junction and stay at least 300 feet away from his estranged wife Wanda Sanville, 48, at all times; however, court records released Friday show that on the morning of March 4th that veneer of protection unravelled in just a matter of hours.

    In an affidavit filed with the court, Detective Sgt. Robert McKenna, a member of the Vermont State Police Major Crimes Unit, said that investigators learned that two friends of Sanville's, who were also in their 70s, picked him up earlier that Sunday morning in downtown White River Junction and drove Sanville to the home of his sister and her husband on Route 110 in South Royalton.  While Sanville was there, at the residence of Maggie and David West, Detective McKenna wrote, Sanville engaged the couple in a conversation about an Ithaca M-49, an older model .22 caliber break-action rifle they owned, warning them that he thought it was too dangerous to actually use because it "could malfunction and essentially blow up."

    Sanville's friends would later tell detectives they noticed that Sanville brought the rifle with him when he left the West's residence.  The friends said they also chided Sanville for trying to load it while he was in the backseat as they were giving him a ride to his neighborhood on nearby Happy Hollow Road.

    The friends told state police that they dropped Sanville off within sight of his longtime residence, despite the court orders that required him to stay clear of anywhere his wife Wanda might be present, and they drove on despite Sanville's having asked them to stick around and wait for him, explaining that they had other places to go that morning.

    Next, Maggie West, Sanville's sister, said she received a phone call from him about 8:20 a.m. in which he explained that he'd left his cellphone and his wallet with nearly $500 dollars and some food stamps at her residence and he told her she was welcome to keep the money, police wrote.

Sanville was led out of the courtroom back to the holding cells at the conclusion of his brief arraignment Friday

    At 10 a.m. state police dispatchers received the first of a several 911 calls reporting that Wanda Sanville had just been shot inside her residence on Happy Hollow.

    Detective McKenna wrote that when Wanda Sanville's brother Todd Hosmer, 54, was interviewed later in the morning he explained that she had invited him and other relatives to stay with her for a while specifically because she was concerned about Frank Sanville's release from prison.

    Hosmer told police that his five-year-old was playing a game with "Aunt Wanda" when all of the sudden Frank Sanville appeared in the room and immediately shot her once in the back of the head and neck, causing her to collapse onto the floor, at which point Sanville cracked open the rifle to reload it while pointing it at Hosmer and saying "You're next!"

    According to the affidavit, Hosmer "grabbed the gun by the barrel and pushed the buttstock into Frank Sanville's face.  After gaining control of the gun, Hosmer struck Frank in the head and face approximately two more times with the gun."

    "Believing that Frank Sanville had been rendered unconscious and, after being unable to call 911 from the phone inside the home, Hosmer ran across the street," and had a neighbor place the first 911 call to authorities.    

    When he returned a few minutes later, "Frank Sanville was no longer in the place (Hosmer) last saw him," the report noted.

    While the shooting occurred moments before 10 a.m., a relative of Sanville's later told state police that he placed a call to Frank Sanville at 10:45 a.m. to invite him to come over and watch wrestling that evening but said Sanville sounded "noticeably out of breath" and "extremely intoxicated" and they said Sanville told them that he was "on the run" before ending the call.

    Police from across the region swarmed the area and began a manhunt along the dirt road, nearby woods, and several adjoining properties, locating Sanville just over four hours later as he hid in the loft of a barn less than half a mile from his former home.

    When Sanville was searched after being pulled from the barn, officers found five .22 caliber bullets in one of his pants pockets and those bullets were later matched to the single shell found on the floor near his wife's body and to a bullet that was embedded in a table in the room where she was shot, the report noted.

Gail Shute spoke to reporters about Wanda Sanville after the hearing was over

    Speaking to reporters after Frank Sanville was led out of the courtroom, family member Gail Shute of Springfield, who is married to one of Wanda's cousins, said that Wanda's family had tried to keep her safe fearing exactly the kind of violence that eventually transpired.

    "She had called in her brother and he was there to try and keep her safe from Frank because he had threatened her for three days in a row prior," to the attack, Shute explained.  "The blame actually lies with the state, if you ask me.  They should never have released Frank after 42 days. They should have kept him there for the minimum of two years," Shute said.

    "His probation officer should have been looking into what was happening.  He was told that (Frank) had been contacting (Wanda)," Shute said, adding "I don't think the family could have done any more but I think the state of Vermont needs to pick it up a little."

    "They are all hurt real bad because domestic violence hurts everybody," Shute said of Wanda's family, before noting, "It doesn't have to be a family member, it could be a friend.  And it hurts on both sides.  I'm sure his family hurts too," Shute said before concluding, "Wanda was a very kind hearted woman.  She loved her animals.  She took care of them.  You couldn't ask for a better person."

Frank Sanville, 70, faces a presumptive 35-years-to-life sentence if he were to be convicted of first degree murder

Vermont News can be contacted at


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