April 23, 2014

Elyria
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Suspect in 1976 case goes free on bond

ELYRIA — After twice refusing to lower the $1 million bond for accused killer Bobbie New, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge on Wednesday relented and agreed to allow New, charged with murder in a 1976 slaying, to go home while he awaits trial.

Bobbie New, left, appears in Judge James Burge’s court Wednesday with his attorney for a hearing. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

Bobbie New, left, appears in Judge James Burge’s court Wednesday with his attorney for a hearing. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

But the 69-year-old New had to put up his Amherst Township home and the Erie County home of his daughter as collateral in exchange for his freedom. He also will be under house arrest — with a GPS tracking device — except for court dates and to visit the offices of his lawyers.

Assistant County Prosecutor Sherry Glass had argued against reducing New’s bond during a hearing Wednesday. She said New is a threat to witnesses in the case, including the nephew whose cooperation with police reopened the long cold case last August. She also said that given the strength of the case against New, he remains a flight risk.

“Our position is that this defendant has gotten away with basically murder for the last 35 years,” she said.

But Andy Robinson, one of New’s lawyers, argued that the case against his client was actually quite weak and centered mostly on the testimony of the nephew and a phone call the nephew placed to New that was recorded by county sheriff’s deputies.

Gerald Smith, another of New’s attorneys, said that prosecutors tried to get an indictment against his client 35 years ago and failed due to lack of evidence. He said New remains eager to clear his name.

“He went through this 35 years ago, and now he’s being put through this again,” Smith said.
Glass, however countered, that New’s sister and brother-in-law, both of whom are deceased, lied to the grand jury in the 1970s, which was one reason New wasn’t charged then with killing Spencer, with whom he had a reportedly violent relationship.

During the call the nephew placed to New, he claimed that his recently deceased mother had left documents detailing her role in the cover-up of the March 14, 1976, attack on 45-year-old Dorothy Spencer in her Camden Township trailer. Spencer was beaten and shot once in the head and died three days after she was discovered.

New didn’t deny killing Spencer during the call, prosecutors and police have said, but rather seemed more concerned with making certain the documents — which didn’t actually exist — didn’t reach authorities.

Burge refused Wednesday to grant a request from The Chronicle-Telegram to release the recording of that call, saying that doing so could contaminate potential jurors and prevent New from getting a fair trial.

Glass said that New, a retired Ford worker, never had reason to believe he would be charged with Spencer’s slaying before.

“He had no reason to run,” she said. “He believed his family had covered for him.”

New was 34 when Spencer was killed, while the nephew was 17.

The nephew, who hasn’t been publicly identified and lives in Kentucky, told deputies that New came to his parents’ home after shooting Spencer and told them what happened. Glass said that New’s sister called a hospital to report someone was injured at the trailer. That call was later traced to her house, Glass said.

New, the nephew and another relative even went out looking for the snub-nosed, .38-caliber revolver believed to have been used in the shooting, Glass said.

The gun, which New allegedly tossed somewhere on Quarry Road, has never been recovered, but Glass said the box it came in was found in Spencer’s trailer and a friend told investigators he had lent the gun to New in the months before the shooting.

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