Accomplice in Cranston slaying gets probation

February 6, 2019

KINGMAN — A man who helped bury Kingman area businessman Sidney Cranston and later provided key testimony that helped convict Cranston’s killer addressed the court during his Feb. 1 sentencing hearing.

In the end, Bill Sanders, 56, of Kingman, was sentenced to no additional jail time, placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.

Sanders said his life was forever changed when he was lured to a ranch 20 miles east of Kingman where Cranston was dead, part of his side blown away by a shotgun blast.

“I walked into something so horrific,” Sanders told Mohave County Superior Court Judge Rick Lambert. “I have images of this on a daily basis. I have nightmares.”

Sanders has said that the convicted killer, Al Blanco, 63, summoned him to the ranch indicating that he needed some help. He said he had no idea he would end up at the scene of a homicide.

Lambert recalled trial testimony that Sanders pleaded with Blanco to call authorities but that Blanco said he already had dug a hole and delivered an implied threat when he asked “have you ever lost anyone close to you.”

“He was legitimately scared for his family,” Lambert said. The judge noted Sanders’ fear was amplified with knowledge that Blanco already had murdered Cranston and might not hesitate to kill again.

Prosecutor Bob Moon and Legal Defender Ron Gilleo both spoke of the pressure Sanders faced at that moment. And while there was a consensus among the attorneys and the judge that Sanders should have refused to cooperate, there was acknowledgement that he was in a tough position and that others in the same position may have helped bury Cranston, too.

“He was scared,” Gilleo said. “He was truly scared for his family.”

Lambert balanced his empathy with the reality that Sanders kept the murder and the location of the burial site a secret for 18 months. Lambert said it was “heinous” that Sanders joined family members who searched for Cranston when he could have ended their stress and misery by telling the truth.

Still, after flunking a polygraph administered by an FBI agent in January 2017, Sanders eventually told his story, led authorities to the ranch and showed them the grave site from which Cranston’s remains were recovered.

“Bill knows he should have come forward sooner. He wishes he had,” Gilleo said, emphasizing Sanders’ eventual cooperation. “He tried to take positive steps to make that wrong a right.”

Lambert agreed that Cranston still might be a missing person had Sanders kept the secret.

“This potentially could have been a cold case for the rest of our lives,” the judge said. “They may never have found Sid.”

Attorneys and the court gave Sanders additional credit for providing trial testimony leading to guilty verdicts at the end of Blanco’s trial on Jan. 25.

“The conviction of Blanco could not have happened without Bill’s help and cooperation,” Gilleo said.

Sanders faced up to a year in jail through the testimonial plea deal that convicted him of the concealment of a dead body. Lambert decided not to impose any jail time.

Lambert placed Sanders on probation and ordered him to perform 1,200 hours of community work service.

Blanco remains in the county jail awaiting a life prison term to be imposed at sentencing scheduled Feb. 19.

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