By Martin J. Kidston
A 15-year-old girl sat in front of the 12th Judicial District Court on Monday where she denied each of six allegations naming her involvement in the shooting deaths of two people last month.
Francine Spang, sister of Jacob Spang, 18, who pleaded innocent to the same crimes last week, sat teary-eyed between her defense lawyers, mumbling her denial in each of the allegations as they were read to her.
Like her brother, she is being charged as accountable for two counts of deliberate homicide under the felony murder rule, two counts of intimidation by accountability, theft and tampering with evidence.
However, while her brother is faced with the same charges as an adult, Francine Spang as a juvenile will face her charges in youth court. The allegations would classify her as a delinquent youth, as opposed to a convicted felon. While her brother faces the possibility of death for his part in the crime, Francine Spang, if found to have committed the offenses, would face a youth placement committee.
As Judge John Warner took the bench, Spangs defense attorneys Tom Sheehy and Steve Gannon motioned the court for the dismissal of the petition that names the girl as a suspect. Sheehy cited a lack of probable cause on the side of the prosecution, which he said amounted to nothing more than suspicion over the girls involvement.
We dont see where the evidence rises to the level of probable cause, Sheehy said, holding up the prosecutions 10-page motion for leave to file information.
There is nothing more to this than suspicion, Sheehy said, waving the document, and from what we can find, there is nothing more to this case than what they have filed right here.
Sheehy argued that Francine Spang was simply present when suspect Danell Reid fired multiple rounds into Kevin Caplette and Kristi Walker, killing them both in the early morning hours of Sept. 16. Sheehy said they have statements from various people who said Francine Spang had nothing to do with the shooting.
She was simply present, which doesnt make her accountable, Sheehy said.
Deputy County Prosecutor Aileen Miller didnt agree. She said the petition which the defense wanted dismissed was based on circumstantial evidence and witness testimony.
Conviction is up to the jury to decide, Miller told the court. Francine fled the scene, and flight is evidence of knowledge that a crime has occurred.
Miller said Francine Spang went willingly with her brother, Jacob, and accused gunman Danell Reid, and was present when the victims were harassed under the threat of being shot. Miller said Francine Spang then willingly fled the scene, willingly took part in the theft of a vehicle, and willingly tampered with evidence after the crime.
The court sided with the prosecution and said that through probable cause and common sense application, one can deduce that Francine took part in the events, which is enough to make her stand trial.
It is not alleged that she did the act, Warner said, but that she had a joint purpose for being there, to acquired the money, at which point someone died.
Warner said his deduction was defensible and asked Sheehy and Gannon when they would like to proceed to trial.
Sheehy said Francine Spang was unable to assist the council in her own defense, stating that she often broke down crying when reciting the gruesome events that she witnessed.
Francine has been seeing Great Falls psychiatrist Dr. Ron Hues, Sheehy said, in order to cope with trauma she suffers from her presence at the crime.
The court set an omnibus hearing for Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 2 p.m.
Although Francine Spang denied taking an active role in the double murder, she has not denied that she was there when the crime occurred.
According to the prosecutions evidence, Danell Reid and Jacob Spang picked Francine Spang up from the Spang residence in the early morning hours. The three then drove to Walkers house for a party.
Witnesses have said that when the trio arrived at Walkers, they were seen standing in the garage playing with a gun, where they talked about what it might be like to shoot somebody.
After the party dwindled down, Walker went to a friends asking for money in a frantic attempt to collect $800. When she returned, Reid held a gun to Walkers friend, Caplette, while demanding money and car keys. Francine and Jacob Spang were also present in the room. Caplette denied the request and Reid shot him multiple times, then followed Walker into the bedroom, took her money, and shot her.
Reid and the Spangs then stole a car and fled the scene. They discarded evidence in the process and tried to cover their tracks by changing clothes and cleaning the stolen car. Jacob Spang and Reid were later arrested in Great Falls. Francine Spang later turned herself over to authorities.