Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hunch Brings Murder Confessions from Ailing Suspect with Months Left, He Admits Killing 4

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hunch Brings Murder Confessions from Ailing Suspect with Months Left, He Admits Killing 4

Article excerpt

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- Not long after Robert Spangler learned he was dying of cancer, detectives came knocking at his door on the chance he had something he might want to get off his chest before the end came.

He didn't disappoint them.

Spangler matter-of-factly admitted killing his family in 1978 and pushing his third wife to her death at the Grand Canyon 15 years later, police said.

Now, Spangler, 67, is under arrest on murder charges.

Spangler had been under suspicion for years, and some of his former in-laws suspected the worst of him all along. But the alleged confession came as a shock to friends and neighbors, who knew him as an all-around good guy who refereed youth soccer and acted in dinner-theater productions.

"He's the kind of person you'd like as a next-door neighbor until you find out about him," said neighbor Joyce Williams.

Sheriff's investigator Paul Goodman refused to speculate as to why he confessed after all these years.

"A friend of mine said it's kind of like a golf game," Goodman said. "You get a great swing, a hole in one. Then you got to walk to the next hole and do it again."

By his own reckoning, Spangler may not be around for a trial, telling people in August he had been given six months to live. However, authorities said they have noticed no significant worsening of his health.

Prosecutors said his condition had no bearing on the question of whether to bring charges.

"He still committed the crime, so it doesn't matter how much time he has to live," said Michael Knight, spokesman for the Arapahoe County district attorney.

Spangler has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Phoenix in the 1993 death of Donna Sundling Spangler, wife No. 3. On Monday, he was charged in Colorado with murdering his first wife and two children because, according to prosecutors, he was dissatisfied with family life.

He is being held in Phoenix. Prosecutors said no decision has been made on whether to seek the death penalty. Spangler has yet to hire a lawyer.

Over the years, Spangler worked for Honeywell Corp.'s camera and instruments division, served as public relations director for a nonprofit organization, and was a part-time disc jockey at a radio station.

Spangler was raised in Ames, Iowa, where a laboratory at Iowa State University is named after his father, a civil engineer. In the mid-1950s, Spangler married his high school sweetheart, Nancy Stahlman, and they moved to suburban Denver, where they raised two children.

In 1978, Nancy Spangler, 45, son David, 17, and daughter Susan, 15, were killed in their home. A gun and typewritten suicide note were found near the mother's body.

Spangler initially told police he had been at work, though gunshot residue was found on his hands. A year later, he told police he returned home and found his wife sitting in a chair with a gunshot wound to the head. …

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