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COMMONWEALTH v. SENK (10/09/63)

October 9, 1963

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SENK, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 215, Jan. T., 1963, from judgment of sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Columbia County, Jan. T., 1962, No. 2, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Frank Earl Senk. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Gailey C. Keller, with him Hervey B. Smith, for appellant.

Nicholas Piazza, Assistant District Attorney, with him Howard R. Berninger, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Eagen

[ 412 Pa. Page 187]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE EAGEN

The appellant-defendant, Frank Earl Senk, was tried and found guilty, by a jury, of murder in the first degree. The punishment was fixed at death. Motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were dismissed, and sentence imposed in accordance with the jury's verdict. From the judgment, the present appeal was filed.

Motion in Arrest of Judgment

In order to sustain the defendant's conviction, it is elementary that the record must contain sufficient evidentiary proof to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt: Commonwealth v. Bonomo, 396 Pa. 222, 151 A.2d 441 (1959): Commonwealth v. Clinton, 391 Pa. 212, 137 A.2d 463 (1958). However, since the jury's verdict resolved all disputed facts in connection with the defendant's guilt in favor of the Commonwealth, in determining the question of the sufficiency of the evidence, the Commonwealth must be given the benefit of all of the favorable trial testimony and every reasonable inference arising therefrom: Commonwealth v. Dickerson, 406 Pa. 102, 176 A.2d 421 (1962); Commonwealth v. Gockley, 411 Pa. 437, 192 A.2d 693 (1963). Read in this light, the record discloses the following:

Jane Mary Benfield, aged thirteen years, departed from her home in the town of Centralia, Columbia County, Pennsylvania, sometime after ten o'clock on the morning of July 11, 1961, to visit the home of a family friend, located a few blocks away. Several minutes later, she was seen a short distance from her home entering a Pontiac station wagon operated by an unidentified

[ 412 Pa. Page 188]

    man, after giving directions to the driver. The automobile then proceeded to travel in the direction of the town of Aristes, located nearby. She did not return home again. On the following day, July 12th, about 7:00 o'clock p.m., her dead body was found by searchers in a wooded, abandoned mining area, approximately one-quarter of a mile east of the state highway leading from Centralia to Aristes. An autopsy disclosed evidence of a severe blow to the head resulting in a fracture of the skull; also strangulation through violence. Abrasions were present near the anus and on the left portion of the hymen. The body, when found, was almost completely nude, whatever little clothing remained was in complete disarray. The death was caused either by the skull fracture or suffocation. A medical expert, who assisted with the post-mortem, fixed the time of death at approximately 11 a.m. on July 11th.

The defendant, when arrested, maintained a home in Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. He was a magazine salesman and traveled extensively in carrying out his trade. During the period, when this killing occurred, he was working in Centralia and surrounding communities. He had temporarily rented an apartment in Ashland, Pennsylvania, which he gave up on July 13, 1961. He made calls on prospects in this area to sell magazines on July 10th and 12th, but none such were made on July 11th, although he had previous commitments to do so. In his employment, he operated and was in possession of a rented Pontiac station wagon. This specific automobile was identified as the same make and model as the one the victim entered near her home on the day of her disappearance. On the ...


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