On trial in Kansas for murdering her husband, defense points finger at her son

Barbara Frantz is on trial for first-degree murder in the killing of 54-year-old Gary Frantz last year in Leavenworth.
Barbara Frantz is on trial for first-degree murder in the killing of 54-year-old Gary Frantz last year in Leavenworth. Leavenworth Police Department

As he lay dying in a parking lot, a Kansas man was recorded by an officer saying, "My wife: Barbara Frantz."

Eighteen months later, Barbara Frantz sat in a Leavenworth County District courtroom Friday, the final day of her trial for first-degree murder of her estranged husband, Gary Frantz.

Her expression was blank as her attorney, Stacey Schlimmer, pinned the January 2017 shooting on Frantz's son.

"We believe (Barbara Frantz's son) did it," Schlimmer said.

The jury went into deliberation Friday morning and had not returned a verdict as of 11:30 a.m.

Leavenworth Prosecutor Katie Devlin, in her closing argument, dismissed the defense's accusation and outlined evidence that she said proved Barbara Frantz, 52, was the shooter.

"(With) his last words, Gary told us who shot him. 'My wife: Barbara Frantz,'" Devlin said to the 12 jurors.

Gary Frantz, 54, was shot six times outside his apartment complex at 420 Esplanade St. in Leavenworth.

Witnesses described the shooter in testimony during the two-week trial and to police in the shooting's aftermath: short hair, about 115 pounds, roughly 5 feet, 6 inches tall, no facial hair.

"That matches the defendant," Devlin said.

But Schlimmer said the descriptions could describe the defendant's son. And she played about a dozen 911 recordings from the night of the shooting in which witnesses either did not mention gender or they specifically indicated the shooter was a man.

One witness said she saw a man in his 20s or 30s.

Schlimmer said Gary Frantz's final words were misconstrued by Leavenworth police, who she said set out to prove Barbara Frantz's guilt too quickly without fully investigating alternative theories.

"What (the prosecution) is ignoring is Mr. Frantz made another statement before he said, 'My wife,'" Schlimmer said before pausing. "(Gary Frantz said), 'My boy.'"

Those words were discernible on the police recording, Schlimmer said, but police didn't catch it on the scene.

"Officers should be trained in an investigation to not jump to conclusions and not taint witnesses," she said. "The only investigation was to try to confirm what the state had already believed, based on one statement."

Devlin countered that investigators also found a spent shell casing that matched those fired at the scene inside Barbara Frantz's apartment. Schlimmer argued that may have been planted by the son, who knew about the 9mm and had access to Frantz's Kansas City, Kan., apartment.

Devlin also presented Facebook posts in which Barbara Frantz laments about her suspicions that her estranged husband had a mistress, that he had pornography on his phone, that he was poisoning her.

Hours before the shooting, Barbara Frantz wrote about Gary Frantz, "I hope you rot in hell. If not, I hope you rot in prison," Devlin said.

She added that witnesses described the shooter leaving in a silver, sporty two-door vehicle. Barbara Frantz was arrested several hours after the shooting in a silver two-door Hyundai.

Schlimmer insisted the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Barbara Frantz was the killer. Schlimmer said the son had been in an argument with his father before the shooting.

"When (officers) walked around and referred to the shooter as 'she, his wife,' they made a second victim, they had a bias, and everything they did after that fact was to create a bias," Schlimmer said.

She added that the witnesses, some of whom rushed to Gary Frantz to help the dying man, want justice in his name.

That weighty responsibility now rests with the members of the jury.