Man convicted of murder in 1986 beating of wife Defendant gave own closing argument BALTIMORE COUNTY

August 31, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

`TC A 52-year-old used-car salesman on trial for murdering his wife fired his attorney before closing arguments yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, deciding he could do a better job.

It didn't work.

The jury convicted William L. Snyder Sr. of first-degree murder in less time than he spent trying to persuade them that he did not beat his wife to death on Valentine's Day 1986.

Snyder argued for so long -- nearly three hours -- that some courtroom spectators left, ate lunch and returned to find him still arguing. Courthouse cynics dubbed him "The Energizer Bunny."

Snyder will be sentenced within 45 days by Judge Thomas J. Bollinger. The maximum penalty is life in prison. The judge ordered a presentence report and a psychiatric evaluation of Snyder.

L "I'm going to find out what makes you tick," he told Snyder.

Although Snyder was the main suspect, he wasn't arrested until this April for the murder of Frances Kay Snyder, 43.

She was attacked in her snow-covered driveway outside the family home in the 1800 block of Clark Blvd. in Relay early on Feb. 14, 1986. She was beaten savagely on the head, then dragged across the street and dumped in a culvert.

Snyder told police he spent that morning washing clothes and signing Valentine's Day cards for their children, while his wife got ready for her job at Westinghouse. He said he didn't hear her leave.

That night, when she hadn't shown up for work or returned home, Snyder said, he found her car at a nearby auto shop. He then looked in the woods across from his home and found the body.

Police said Snyder refused to talk and said he wanted a lawyer when, about a week after the murder, they brought him in to explain inconsistencies in his story.

SG "'I'm not going to answer any of your questions. I want a lawyer,'"

Prosecutor James O. Gentry said yesterday, quoting Snyder. "The words of an innocent man?" he added rhetorically.

With no confession, fingerprints or other direct evidence against Snyder, police waited.

Meanwhile, his five children split over his involvement in their mother's death.

Three daughters -- Robin Hock, 29, of Laurel; Valerie, 26, of Pasadena; and Tanya, 21, now of Arizona -- felt he was guilty. They spoke of him having a violent temper and beating his wife. They testified for the prosecution.

William L. Snyder, Jr., 27, and Bonnie, 24, continued to live with him and supported his innocence. They testified for his defense.

Mr. Gentry argued yesterday that Snyder, who separated from his wife three times during their 24-year marriage, killed her because she wanted to divorce him and keep the family home. He also benefited from a $170,000 life insurance policy.

A stranger would not have killed Mrs. Snyder, then concealed her body and car the way the killer did, said Mr. Gentry. And, he argued, if she was the victim of a street robbery, why wasn't her money or jewelry taken?

Mr. Gentry also said Snyder could not have seen his wife's body from his driveway -- his explanation for how he discovered her -- because the body was below street level.

Snyder argued that police focused entirely on him, while ignoring evidence he said he provided of at least three other suspects, one of whom allegedly threatened his wife a week before her death.

He acknowledged that he and his wife had problems, but said counseling sessions in the months before her murder helped them put those problems behind them. He said he didn't kill her.

"I loved my wife," he said. "And I still love my wife."

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