December 30, 1978
Robert Spangler kills his wife Nancy and their children, David and Susan
Robert had begun an affair with a woman named Sharon Cooper, putting strain on his marriage with Nancy, though the couple seemingly reconciled months before Nancy and her children were killed. In his confession to police decades later, Robert admitted to killing Nancy, Susan (15), and David (17) because he was dissatisfied with his family and wanted to be with Sharon. Robert shot his wife and children one at a time, killing Nancy and Susan with the gunshots though David was also smothered.
After the murders, Robert placed a typewritten, apparent suicide note next to Nancy, signed simply with an “N,” and reading: “We always argued about who’d have the kids. I will.” He also left the gun near her body.
Robert was questioned by police and initially claimed to have been at work at the time of the killings, though he changed his story when confronted with evidence of gunshot residue on his hands. He amended his story to claim he had found Nancy dead and handled the gun before police arrived. Suspicion looked heavily over Spangler but without sufficient evidence the deaths were ruled as a murder-suicide.
Robert and Sharon married the following year in 1979, though by 1988 they divorced. Robert was ordered to pay Sharon a monthly alimony. The same year Robert met Donna Sundling and the pair wed in 1990. Robert soon wanted out of this marriage as well and, during a “spur of the moment” decision, pushed Donna from a cliff while the couple were visiting the Grand Canyon. Robert told police he turned his back on Donna for a moment and she simply disappeared. Her body was found 200 feet below the cliff he pushed her from.
In 1994, Sharon rented a room in Robert’s home, though within three months she died of a drug overdose. Her death is considered to be either accidental or suicidal, and Robert was not implicated in her death.
Robert was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2000 which police learned of quickly. They hoped for a deathbed confession and visited Robert, asking if he had anything he wished to get off his chest. He readily confessed to the murders of two of his wives and his two children, and gave detailed accounts of each. Robert was offered a plea deal which he accepted, pleading guilty to the four murders and was sentenced to life in prison in October of 2000. He died in prison a little less than a year later on August 5, 2001.
Houtz, Emilee, Gitman, Tara, and Helm, Ryan. “Robert Merlin Spangler.” Department of Psychology, Radford University. http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Psyc%20405/serial%20killers/Spangler,%20Robert.pdf
“A Killer Who Thinks He Is ‘Interesting’.” ABC News. January 5, 2006. Accessed: December 30, 2019. https://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=132630&page=1
Tsai, Catherine. “Dying Man Admits He Killed Four in Family.” Los Angeles Times. October 22, 2000. Accessed: December 30, 2019. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2000-oct-22-mn-40204-story.html?_amp=true
Draper, Electra and Robinson, Marilyn. “Man held in deaths of 2 wives.” Denver Post. October 5, 2000. Accessed: December 30, 2019. https://extras.denverpost.com/news/news1005b.htm