WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County prosecutors filed notice Friday they will seek the death penalty for Anthony Spudis, charged in the 2013 slaying of 97-year-old Gertrude Price in Nanticoke.
Spudis is accused of killing Price inside the woman’s home on West Grand Street on Nov. 28, 2013. Investigators allege Spudis entered her residence through a basement window intending to ransack the house but instead, he stabbed Price several times in the head when she confronted him.
Spudis, 35, appeared before Judge Tina Polachek Gartley to be formally arraigned on charges of criminal homicide, robbery and burglary. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Assistant district attorneys Daniel E. Zola and Michelle A. Hardik notified the judge they filed a notice of aggravating circumstances with the court, indicating they are seeking the death penalty for Spudis. It’s a legal requirement that certifies the trial as a capital case.
Polachek Gartley scheduled jury selection to begin Nov. 27 with the trial to commence once 12 jurors plus four alternates are selected.
The judge also imposed a gag order prohibiting prosecutors and Spudis’ lawyers, John Pike and Joanna Smith, from publicly discussing the case.
Spudis’ case qualified for the death penalty as he allegedly killed Price during the commission of a felony — robbery and burglary — which is the only aggravating circumstance Zola and Hardik submitted.
There are 18 separate aggravating circumstances in Pennsylvania for prosecutors to seek the death penalty if there is a conviction of first-degree murder.
A jury must initially convict Spudis of first-degree murder then proceed to a second phase, normally called the penalty phase, to determine if Spudis will be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.
Spudis was charged Dec. 20, 2017 — more than four years after Price was killed — after investigators received information from inmates housed with him.
During a previous court proceeding, Michael Owens, 42, and Jared Hospodar, 24, testified they were locked up with Spudis at the county correctional facility and were all on kitchen duty. During conversations in jail, Owens and Hospodar said Spudis talked about killing a woman in Nanticoke on Thanksgiving a few years ago.
Spudis’ former girlfriend, Taryn Simms, testified during the preliminary hearing.
During Simms’ testimony, defense attorney Pike indicated that evidence collected at Price’s residence allegedly showed Simms’ DNA on a broken necklace, a flathead screwdriver and a busted basement window.
The broken necklace was on the floor next to a bed where Price’s body was found. The screwdriver — believed to be the weapon used to kill Price — was located on a kitchen table.
Simms has not been charged.
Investigators say they found numerous items from Price’s house hidden in the basement rafters of 2 W. Union St., Nanticoke, where Spudis lived with Simms.