July 31, 2014

Elyria
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Man arrested in 1976 slaying

A 69-year-old Amherst Township man was arrested Thursday for a murder he allegedly committed 35 years ago.

Bobbie New is accused of beating and shooting Dorothy Spencer in her Camden Township home on March 14, 1976. She died from her injuries on March 17, 1976, at what is now known as EMH Medical Center in Elyria.

Bobbie New

Bobbie New

Lorain County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh said detectives caught a break in the unsolved murder case about a year ago and have been working since then to develop enough evidence to charge New with the killing.

“That’s been cold for many years,” Cavanaugh said. “They did some good work.”

Both Cavanaugh and county Prosecutor Dennis Will declined to discuss the details of the case or what information led to the arrest of New, who was 34 years old at the time Spencer was killed. They said the case remains under investigation.

New, who is in the Lorain County Jail on a $1 million bond, was arrested without incident Thursday at his state Route 113 home, Cavanaugh said.

Deputies went to Spencer’s secluded rental mobile home off Gifford Road in the early morning hours of March 14, 1976, after getting a report of a shooting.

Spencer, who was 45 at the time of her death, was found bleeding and bruised on the couch of her living room. She had been shot once in the back of the head, then-sheriff’s Capt. Henry Zieba told The Chronicle-Telegram in 1976.

“She had bruises and it looked as if she had been manhandled,” Zieba said at the time.

Investigators didn’t recover a gun, according to what Zieba said 35 years ago, but they did find a box of .38-caliber ammunition in a bedroom at the home. He told The Chronicle-Telegram that he suspected Spencer had been shot with a .38-caliber pistol.

Kipton Village Clerk Rose Alferio was 14 years old and living with her parents and siblings near Spencer’s rented trailer, which has since been torn down, when the shooting occurred.

“She was just a nice neighbor,” Alferio said of Spencer.

Neither Alferio, nor her sister, Linda Elwell, who said she was 11 at the time, recall much about the shooting, though.

“We were sheltered from it because we were still kids,” Alferio said.

At the time, deputies focused their investigation on a single suspect, a man identified in newspaper accounts only as a 34-year-old who had been living with Spencer for about two years when the shooting took place. Zieba said at the time that the suspect had previously threatened Spencer and her two married daughters. When she was killed, Spencer also had at least one granddaughter and Alferio recalled that she had a son as well.

After the suspect, now identified as New, was brought in for questioning by deputies in 1976 he refused to answer questions on the advice of an attorney, according to Zieba, who said at the time that there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges.

New appears to have moved on with his life after Spencer’s death and, according to county property records, bought his home in 1985. A former neighbor, who asked not to be identified by name, said New had worked at Ford, but retired several years ago, although he still liked to work on cars.

She said New had at least one adult child, but lived alone. She described him as an “affable” neighbor who mostly kept to himself.

“He never seemed like a man that would do that,” the former neighbor said. “He was always quiet, very polite.”

Will said unsolved homicide cases are never considered closed.

“All cases of this nature are treated with the utmost care and the utmost dedication, so they’re always difficult,” he said.

Will said while it’s rare for his prosecutors to deal with the laws as they were in 1976, it shouldn’t present much of an obstacle in prosecuting the case.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.