By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — New trial dates have been set for the the 57-year-old suspect in a February 2018 Wausau homicide, after his request for a new attorney was granted.
Lee Franck, who faces first degree intentional homicide charges in connection with the death of 77-year-old Lyle Leith, demanded a new attorney as part of his request for a speedy trial. During a hearing in August, Franck’s court-appointed defense attorney, Richard Lawson, told a judge he would be unable to effectively represent Franck in a speedy trial, but said he would continue as Franck’s attorney if the trial was held before December.
Franck, who has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, told Circuit Judge Greg Strasser he would not withdraw his demand for a speedy trial, and Strasser agreed to allow Lawson to withdraw — even though the judge explained that having a new attorney would likely push the trial date back even further.
Franck’s new attorney, Peter Prusinski, was appointed in late October.
Now, a new trial date is on the calendar. Jury selection will begin on May 27.
Franck, who is being held on a $750,000 cash bond, is accused of killing Leith on Feb. 19, 2018 in the garage of Leith’s home. Leith’s body was discovered hours later by Leith’s daughter, who was dating Franck and had been living with him in Florence County at the time Mr. Leith was killed.
Investigators say Leith died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, likely caused by a tire iron or crowbar.
Franck, a Wausau native who was living in Niagra at the time of Leith’s death, was awaiting trial on felony domestic abuse charges when he was arrested, three months after Leith’s death.
If Franck is convicted of the homicide charge, he faces a mandatory life sentence, which means a minimum of 20 years in prison. According to Wisconsin law, judges determine whether or not a suspect will ever be considered for supervised release. That determination is made during sentencing.
During the investigation, Leith’s daughter told police Franck threatened her father during an argument that happened on Feb. 17 and continued to make threats against the family after the argument ended.
A review of court records show Franck has a number of criminal charges and convictions dating back to 2007, when he was found guilty of intimidating a victim in Marathon County Circuit Court. In that case, a felony stalking charge from 2007 was dismissed as part of a plea agreement. Franck lived in Wausau at that time.
In 2008, Franck was convicted of criminal trespassing and bail jumping. In that Marathon County case, additional charges of stalking, battery, making threats to injure, criminal damage to property, intimidating a victim and disorderly conduct were also dismissed.
In 2013, Franck’s most recent legal tangle, he was charged in Florence County Circuit Court with second degree recklessly endangering safety and endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon, but those charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal that involved Franck pleading guilty to disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Franck’s homicide trial is expected to last eight days.