The murder conviction of William L. Snyder Sr., who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1986 Valentine's Day beating death of his wife, was overturned yesterday by the state Court of Special Appeals.
The court ruled that police speculation had been entered improperly as evidence during the trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court in August 1993, when a jury convicted Mr. Snyder of first-degree murder.
During the trial, police officers testified they had interviewed people who said the victim, Frances Kay Snyder, 43, was terrified of her husband and that they had "enough proof" of what happened.
The appeals court ruled that the police officers' statements violated due process and rendered the trial, presided over by Judge Thomas J. Bollinger, fundamentally unfair. It remanded the case for a new trial.
Assistant State's Attorney James O'C. Gentry, who prosecuted the case, was not aware of the court's opinion yesterday but said he would review the case with the state's attorney before deciding how to proceed.
Mr. Snyder, now 54, was arrested seven years after his wife's body was found in a wooded culvert across from the couple's home in the 1800 block of Clark Blvd., in the southwestern Baltimore County community of Relay.
Mrs. Snyder, the mother of five children, had been attacked in her snow-covered driveway, beaten savagely on the head and then dragged across the street. Mr. Snyder reported finding his wife's body the evening of the slaying.
Homicide detectives long suspected Mr. Snyder of killing his wife. According to testimony, he was the beneficiary of a $170,000 life insurance policy and his fingerprints were on her shoes, which had been tossed beside the body.
Mr. Snyder, a used car salesman, maintained his innocence throughout the investigation and trial. He acknowledged that he and his wife of 24 years had marital problems, but insisted that they had worked them out just before her death.