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LAWRENCEBURG – With a dozen family members of the woman he is accused of killing glaring at him, a shackled and visibly nervous Gary Bancroft made his first live appearance in an Anderson County courtroom Tuesday morning.
Bancroft, a former Shelbyville resident accused of slashing to death his girlfriend, Frances Renee Mobley of Mount Eden, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence.
The tension-wracked courtroom was whisper-silent when a pair of Anderson County sheriff’s deputies walked Bancroft into the courtroom. Eight other police officers stood watch inside the courtroom, including Sheriff Troy Young and Chief Deputy Joe Milam.
Outside, more officers guarded the door to the courtroom and two more manned a metal detector on the first floor and frisked people heading into the courtroom.
With rumors of retribution circulating since Mobley’s murder, police were visibly on high alert in preparing for Bancroft’s appearance.
That tension escalated last week when a suspicious early-morning fire destroyed Bancroft’s trailer, and his vehicle was stripped of its tires and other parts.
Just before Bancroft entered the courtroom, Sheriff Young approached several members of Mobley’s family and asked them to move away from where they were seated by the door to seats on the other side of the courtroom.
When Bancroft entered, the family stared intently at him as he was escorted toward the front of the courtroom before standing directly before Circuit Court Judge Charles Hickman.
Bancroft’s court-appointed attorney entered not guilty pleas on his behalf, and Hickman set Bancroft’s next appearance date for Nov. 16.
Bancroft was led back out of the courtroom by deputies.
He did not appear to make eye contact with Mobley’s family during the brief time he was in court. While in front of Hickman, Bancroft appeared to be looking up at the ceiling most of the time.
The family acted respectfully throughout, intermittently speaking with the sheriff and Commonwealth’s Attorney Laura Donnell, who after Bancroft’s appearance moved the family into a separate room to speak with them.
Mobley’s murder sent shock waves across Anderson, Shelby and Spencer counties. Mobley was from the Spencer side of Mount Eden, and she and Bancroft lived in Shelbyville for a period of time before he moved earlier this year to Bardstown Road in western Anderson County.
Bancroft was convicted earlier this year on a domestic violence charge in Shelby County, and his alleged murder of Bancroft apparently followed what police described as a domestic incident at his home on Bardstown Road.
Bancroft reportedly sliced Mobley several times on Sept. 3, including slashing her throat, according to police. He then placed her body in a trash bag and stored it in a container in the bathroom of his trailer.
He then allegedly dug a hole near the old Western School to bury her before recruiting a friend to help him finish digging the hole the next night.
He allegedly told the friend that he “xxxx-ed up” and that he “sliced her from ear to ear.”
Bancroft was arrested Sept. 4 at the residence.
He remains lodged in the Franklin County Detention Center on $500,000 cash bail.
Ben Carlson can be reached at email@example.com.