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LAWRENCEBURG – The family of a Mount Eden woman brutally murdered in Anderson County last September has made it clear: They want the man charged with killing her to be executed.
Even if Gary Bancroft were convicted in her death, his fate would be decided not only by a jury but also on a series of 15 factors set forth by state law.
Called aggravating and mitigating circumstances, each offers legal language to help prosecutors determine if they should move forward with a death penalty or seek a sentence of up to life in prison.
Making that choice will be Commonwealth’s Attorney Laura Donnell, who represents Shelby County and Anderson County as part of the 53rd Judicial Circuit.
With the investigation still under way and no trial date set, Donnell said last Friday that she has yet to choose.
“As of today, I have not filed a notice to proceed as a death penalty,” she said. “There are time limitations on that, but we are clearly at the status hearing stage in this case.
“There is still some discovery outstanding, and articles of evidence at the lab, waiting on testing.”
Donnell added that she couldn’t recall the last time a capital murder case had been tried in her judicial district.
Frances Renee Mobley was found dead last Sept. 3. Her throat had been slashed and her body stuffed into a trash bag and stored in a container in the bathroom of Bancroft’s trailer.
According to court documents, Bancroft recruited the help of a friend to bury Mobley’s body near the old Western High School after he had already begun digging a makeshift grave.
In court documents, the friend claimed Bancroft told him that he “[messed] up” and that he “sliced her from ear to ear.”
The friend called police, and Bancroft was arrested Sept. 4.
Since his arrest, Bancroft has appeared in Anderson Circuit Court only once. Escorted in by a pair of Anderson County deputies, Bancroft did not look at about a dozen of Mobley’s family members in attendance and was whisked away after a brief appearance in front of the judge.
It remains unclear when Bancroft will return to court. He remains jailed on $500,000 bail and has already pleaded not guilty.
Bancroft is reportedly undergoing a psychiatric evaluation at an undisclosed location.
Mobley’s family has made it known that they want the judicial system to convict Bancroft and sentence him to die.
Rumors of retribution if that doesn’t happen have been rampant since the time of Bancroft’s arrest. Security at Bancroft’s court appearance was extremely high, with officers frisking people entering the courthouse and requiring them to pass through a metal detector.
Inside, Sheriff Troy Young and a host of deputies were on hand to ensure the safety of Bancroft and other in the courtroom.
Death penalty factors
Death penalty cases require that any of eight aggravating circumstances be met, including:
1. The offense of murder or kidnapping was committed by a person with a prior record of conviction for a capital offense, or the offense of murder was committed by a person who has a substantial history of serious assaultive criminal convictions;
2. The offense of murder or kidnapping was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of arson in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, rape in the first degree, or sodomy in the first degree;
3. The offender by his act of murder, armed robbery, or kidnapping knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person in a public place by means of a weapon of mass destruction, weapon or other device which would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person;
4. The offender committed the offense of murder for himself or another, for the purpose of receiving money or any other thing of monetary value, or for other profit;
5. The offense of murder was committed by a person who was a prisoner and the victim was a prison employee engaged at the time of the act in the performance of his duties;
6. The offender's act or acts of killing were intentional and resulted in multiple deaths;
7. The offender's act of killing was intentional and the victim was a state or local public official or police officer, sheriff, or deputy sheriff engaged at the time of the act in the lawful performance of his duties; and
8. The offender murdered the victim when an emergency protective order or a domestic violence order was in effect, or when any other order designed to protect the victim from the offender, such as an order issued as a condition of a bond, conditional release, probation, parole or pretrial diversion was in effect.
Mitigating circumstances — factors that don’t excuse criminal conduct but are considered out of fairness when deciding punishment — include:
1. The defendant has no significant history of prior criminal activity;
2. The capital offense was committed while the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance even though the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance is not sufficient to constitute a defense to the crime;
3. The victim was a participant in the defendant's criminal conduct or consented to the criminal act;
4. The capital offense was committed under circumstances, which the defendant believed to provide a moral justification or extenuation for his conduct even though the circumstances which the defendant believed to provide a moral justification or extenuation for his conduct are not sufficient to constitute a defense to the crime;
5. The defendant was an accomplice in a capital offense committed by another person and his participation in the capital offense was relatively minor;
6. The defendant acted under duress or under the domination of another person even though the duress or the domination of another person is not sufficient to constitute a defense to the crime;
7. At the time of the capital offense, the capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct to the requirements of law was impaired as a result of mental illness or retardation or intoxication even though the impairment of the capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform the conduct to the requirements of law is insufficient to constitute a defense to the crime; and
8. The youth of the defendant at the time of the crime.