December 26th, 2012

What about this mass murderer?

The Newtown killings got the attention of the entire country, and rightly so: a large death toll with young children as the bulk of the victims, and a perp who’d been described as strange and whose motives are still unknown. Afterward, there were calls for more gun control and easier mental health commitments and the like.

But as it turns out, a great deal of the reporting in the Newtown massacre was incorrect, whether merely irresponsible or purposefully misleading it’s difficult to say. As far as we know now (which isn’t very far), the killer’s “mental illness” seems to not have been of the commitable variety, and there seems to have been no prior hints of his dangerousness. He took the guns from his mother, but how she stored them and how he obtained them is completely unknown. Reports from a friend or friends that she had taken her son to shooting ranges seem to be unsubstantiated as well (although he visited one, he apparently was alone at the time, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear record of him shooting there).

Thin gruel for those who are jumping on the case to further this cause or that, but that doesn’t stop them.

Then there’s this horrific murderer, William Spengler of Webster, New York, who set a fire in his own house and several others and then lay in wait for firefighters to arrive in order to kill them. He proceeded to do just that to two of the responders (and wounded two others), then killed himself. In the burned-out ruins of his home was found the body of his older sister.

That’s not children and teachers as victims, to be sure, but it’s pretty hideous nevertheless and I think the word “evil” is quite appropriate. Compared to Lanza, we know a bit more about Spengler’s motives, who left a note that said in part, “I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down, and do what I like doing best, killing people.”

And although killers such as Spengler always remain somewhat of a mystery (nature or nurture, for example), we knew a lot more about his potential dangerousness than we did about that of Adam Lanza. In fact, it wasn’t just potential; Spengler had long ago proven what sort of guy he was, because he had served 17 years in prison for the 1980 hammer slaying of his grandmother.

That previous killing occurred when Spengler was about 30 years old, no impressionable teenager who lacked maturity. And as an ex-felon, Spengler was apparently forbidden to legally buy weapons. Clearly, no gun law stopped him from getting them.

But why did the justice system let me off so easy back in 1980? The answer is unclear, but here’s a hint:

Spengler had been charged with murder in his grandmother’s death but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, apparently to spare his family a trial.

So the DA thought letting him cop a plea was sparing the family? It certainly didn’t spare the sister, as it turns out, although in defense of the DA’s decision, perhaps it was made at the family’s request—and since both victim and killer were relatives of the family, that might have been the reason the family’s request would have been honored. But it didn’t spare society, either; those firefighters who lost their lives would not have died had Spengler still been in prison.

CNN (which seems to be unable to do simple arithmetic, since it writes that Spengler would have been around forty in 1980, which is clearly incorrect if his present age was 62) has a bit more information on the sentencing:

After his 1981 manslaughter conviction, Spengler was given an indeterminate sentence, said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley.

He ended up spending nearly 18 years behind bars until his release in 1998. Through 2006, Spengler was on supervised parole, during which time Doorley said she wasn’t aware of any events suggesting he had gotten into further trouble.

This article is somewhat more informative:

According to reports, [in 1980 Spengler's grandmother] was found at the bottom of the basement stairs in her home on Lake Road. She had been beaten with a hammer. Spengler pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years behind bars.

While in prison, Spengler did not seem like a man seeking mercy or repentance. I-Team 10 has obtained a copy of his 1997 parole hearing. At that hearing, the commissioner says “you didn’t want to come here today?”

Spengler replied, “I thought it was mandatory.”

When told it was not, Spengler said, “Then it’s not worth the time and effort.”

He was denied parole, but was released six months later after serving two-thirds of the maximum. Since his release, police say he’s been a quiet member of the Webster community.

So, where are the cries for tougher sentencing in the wake of Spengler’s killings? The demands for fewer plea bargains for killers who appear on the face of it to be violent sociopaths? This case and those causes don’t seem to fit the agenda of the MSM or the left—except for the single angle we keep reading, which is that the type of weapon Spengler used was the same as Lanza wielded in the Newtown massacre. I’m not a weapons expert, but that doesn’t seem especially relevant to me; couldn’t Spengler have committed this crime with any decent rifle? And note that his first crime was with a tool commonly found around the house: a hammer. Where there’s a will there’s a way, if killing’s one of the things a person likes best.

30 Responses to “What about this mass murderer?”

  1. Don Carlos Says:

    From Neo’s link to the ABC story:

    (The guns) “appeared to be registered to a family member. Authorities are currently completing their checks to see which weapons were used in the slayings, to whom they were registered and how they were obtained.”

    Ah, the ponderousness of our “authorities.” How long can it possibly take to do this simple task?

  2. Kyndyll Says:

    This case provides an astonishing and disheartening look into the World According to the Progressively Inclined:

    1) Guy who commits a heinous crime somehow sees daylight as a free man again (partially driven by the obsession of the left to leave no stone unturned when it comes to making sure that criminals, no matter how evil, get every chance to run loose as soon as possible);
    2) Despite a previous murder (let’s call it what it was) with an ordinary household tool, and hatching a plot to ambush emergency responders that could additionally kill other people with an ordinary household object (fire), the takeaway message is “guns are bad.”

    No amount of laws prevents this incident, because people like Spengler don’t care about laws. Take away one tool, and a guy like this reaches for the next tool to kill, if he feels like killing. Law-abiding people, aka “victims of people like Spengler,” care about laws.

    I realize that some gun-banner types are motivated by the idea that outlawing guns will make guns dematerialize and not be available to the Spenglers of the world, but that just shows the naivete of that crowd.

    The rest, I have to suspect, are really no less evil than Spengler himself. They don’t get that their blind drive to establish utopia is doomed to cause a lot of crime against law-abiding people, and Im starting to realize that many of them probably don’t care.

  3. Ray Says:

    The people trying to establish utopia don’t care if lots of people are killed. Eric Hobsbawn, a marxist historian, said all the death would have been worth it if the Communist utopia worked. What’s a hundred million deaths if you achieve utopia?

  4. parker Says:

    “She had been beaten with a hammer. Spengler pled guilty to manslaughter….” A vicious, brutal murderer is allowed to successfully bargain for a lesser charge; so much for crime and punishment in America. This travesty rests on the shoulders of ‘progressives’ and their leniency and appeasement when confronted with obvious evil. Except for the fact that this recent evil deed involved a firearm, it would not be on the MSM radar screen.

    Too bad granny did not shoot the monster back in 1980.

  5. Kyndyll Says:

    “Too bad granny did not shoot the monster back in 1980.”

    Or picture granny shooting this beast in 1980 and going to jail for it …

  6. thomass Says:

    “So, where are the cries for tougher sentencing in the wake of Spengler’s killings?”

    The left can’t allow themselves to understand that the US’s decline in crime has corresponded with longer / set sentencing guides. More criminals in jail = less crime.

    So I’m for it. My blue California has a three strikes law and it works. We just modified it so that the last strike has to be violent but I’m ok with it. If your committing non violent crimes and getting caught; you won’t get life but you’ll go away for awhile each time….

  7. Oldflyer Says:

    Neo said: “But it didn’t spare society, either; those firefighters who lost their lives would not have died had Spengler still been in prison.”

    I know that the death penalty is unfashionable in America; but, I happen to believe that beating Granny to death with a hammer qualifies for the ultimate sanction. Had it been applied, not only would the firefighters still be alive, but the State of New York would have been spared the expense of feeding, housing, and guarding this Cretin for all of those wasted years.

  8. parker Says:

    Oldflyer,

    Personally, I favor saving the state the considerable expense of the endless appeals that are involved in death penalty cases. Instead I favor taking a monster like Spengler and locking him in a tiny cell where he will stay until he dies. No TV, no exercise yard, no anything beyond a simple diet and all the water he can drink. The cost would be low and the punishment far harsher than the death these monsters seek.

  9. csimon Says:

    Now that is one scary story! And evidence of either bald stupidity, ignorance, or just more evil by those who released a man like this. If they didn’t want to support him in the prison system, and for some unknown reason found his acts undeserving of the death sentence, this guy is just the candidate for locking away in a mental institution for life. I don’t think there is any “therapy” that can “cure” someone like this whose brain is wired in such a way that he has no conscience and is unable to relate to other human beings in a manner which causes most of the rest of us to have a profound respect for life.

  10. csimon Says:

    re: thomass’ comment above: Not only does the left not recognize any correlation between tougher sentences which keep recidivist criminals locked away from the public denying them opportunity to commit more heinous offenses, their drumbeat consistently returns to the makeup of the prison population which is “unfairly skewed to imprison more “men of color.”
    They maintain that this is so as one only has to look at the percentage of people of color in proportion to the population at large to see what obvious injustice exists, and thus the persistence of blatant racism. (Never mind that activists have only in recent years expanded the interpretation of unfair practices against black/African American to “men of color” in order to include anyone of Latins extraction, Asians, Indians, I presume Arabs, too (anyone not 100% caucasion — – for the express purposes of making it appear to be more of an uneven balance). Never mind that the proportion of persons who break the law might be skewed in similar proportion to those jailed.
    But soon those activists will have to come up with a different song as white people are quickly becoming the minority in this country. Does that mean imbalance of people of color in prison is evidence of apartheid?

  11. csimon Says:

    P.S. On this thread, too — quick reminder to go vote for neo on Blogress Diva website and do so everyday — one vote per day allowed.

  12. parker Says:

    “Does that mean imbalance of people of color in prison is evidence of apartheid?”

    The racial Rube Goldberg machine labeled Zimmerman a “white hispanic”. Race and gender are the end all and be all for the leftist agenda. The more victim classes the better. So of course there is evidence of apartheid if black males represent more than 7% of the prison population or more than 7% of the students disciplined at school.

  13. Simon Says:

    Speaking as someone who wants to see gun laws tightened as much as possible, I don’t think my reasons for this are utopian. I agree crazy people will always exist and always find ways to kill. I just think if they don’t have easy access to guns they will kill fewer people. Fewer, not none.

    If Adam Lanza’s mom had no guns, I very much doubt those 26 people would be dead now. They might be, he may have stolen a gun somehow, but if he had to steal one, or purchase one illegally, that is a new set of obstructions between him and his murderous goal. Thus the odds of success would be reduced. Not illiminated — not utopian.

    I saw a comment on the New York Times where somebody suggested that in order to own a gun you should have to take out liability insurance. I thought this would be a great idea. I would be curious to know if/what objections anybody would have to this. Insurance companies are usually pretty good at figuring out who they can trust with a policy.

  14. thomass Says:

    csimon Says:

    “They maintain that this is so as one only has to look at the percentage of people of color in proportion to the population at large to see what obvious injustice exists”

    Well; I will give them something. DAs tend to give white folks more first time offense passes… after your fingerprinted, put in jail for a couple days until you get bail, and all the rest. It forces a lot of first time offenders to really think about it all. You weren’t too smart to not get caught and after you have a conviction your sc*ew ever getting a good mainstream job.

    Now in reverse; if your black and you get caught for something and the police play the charges up to a fellony (re: you brought a screwdriver to steal a car stereo ergo you have ‘bugurly trools’ on you which is a feloney)… Get caught once; your bounced out of mainstream society for life.

  15. thomass Says:

    Oops… I hit the wrong key. I was just going to try to clean up errors… not submit… ugh…

  16. Roy Lofquist Says:

    Simon,

    Do you seriously believe that criminals walk into federally licensed gun dealers to purchase weapons?

  17. Simon Says:

    Roy Lofquist,

    No. Not sure how my comment gave that impression.

  18. Roy Lofquist Says:

    Simon,

    You wrote: “I just think if they don’t have easy access to guns they will kill fewer people.”

    Guns are readily available on the black market. It is the way of the world that if governments attempt to limit supply of something then the black market expands to fill the demand. We have our own experience with Prohibition and the War on Drugs, which led to rampant crime and social pathology. In many place in this country it is easier and more convenient to acquire illegal drugs than alcohol.

    Sorry if I misunderstood your comment.

    Roy

  19. THURSDAY MORNING GOD & CAESAR EDITION | Big Pulpit Says:

    [...] What About This Mass Murderer? – Neo-Neocon [...]

  20. Al Reasin Says:

    “. . . couldn’t Spengler have committed this crime with any decent rifle?” Yes. Any hunting rifle would do the job. Or maybe the well respected Ruger Mini-14; it is a semi automatic rifle that can take a 30 round magazine. It is not an assault rife anymore than an AR-15 necessarily is. The Mini-14 looks very much like the 22 cal semi-auto Ruger 10-22. The 10-22 accepts a large capacity magazine too. Throw a pistol grip and a folding stock on it and the 10-22 becomes an assault rifle. The AR-15 non assault rifle, the AR-15 assault rifle and the Mini-14 all fire the same ammo; the .223 round. The AR-15 in any form looks very dangerous, but the Mini-14 is just as lethal.

    Here is something to chew on: We have a social experiment in Utah where CCW permit holders have been able to carry in schools and colleges since 2004. In Texas since 2008. So where are the stats on less safe schools as the anti-gun pundits claim would happen if teachers were armed across the county.

    And this:
    Maybe gun owners are getting more ornery as time goes on. Or perhaps they’re just getting more distrustful of the authorities. In fact, American gun owners may have good reason to be skeptical of common assurances that registration records won’t ever be used for anything more than tracking lost and stolen weapons. In New York City, the center of agitation for tighter U.S. gun laws, the registration system for long guns such as rifles and shotguns, established in 1967, was used in the 1990s to confiscate previously lawful semiautomatic rifles.

    California state officials pulled a similar stunt, though with a shorter grace period. After the registration of so-called “assault weapons” subsequent to the passage of the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, Attorney General Dan Lungren reversed official position in 1997 to declare one of the rifles considered legal and subject to registration just a few years earlier—the SKS Sporter—to be illegal. Owners who had complied with the law were forced to surrender their weapons or transfer them out of state.

    A rifle is an assault weapon if it is a semi-automatic rifle able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
    Folding or telescoping stock
    Pistol grip
    Bayonet mount
    Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
    Grenade launcher (more precisely, a muzzle device which enables the launching or firing of rifle grenades)

  21. Steve Says:

    Simon,

    Liability insurance does not seem like a great idea. Criminals steal guns or buy them illegally. If someone steals your gun would your liability insurance go with the gun? That would increase the incentive to steal guns or buy them illegally. Have you been following the argument here that keeping violent criminals in prison is part of the solution? Or that would be murderers look for soft targets and making yourself one does not make you safe? Politicians want armed security for themselves right?

  22. sergey Says:

    Was it ever possible to rehabilitate a sociopath? It seems the only answer is “never”. So why such persons are allowed to get free? They are inherently dangerous, and after murdering somebody loosing their right to life too. In better world the only moral decision would be apply death penalty to all sociopaths

  23. Steve D Says:

    How does one commit manslaughter (and not murder) with a hammer?

  24. waltj Says:

    Firearms have been around for 800 years or so, and have been common for about 400. But people have been murdered for the length of recorded history, and before. I seem to recall that the freeze-dried, 7,000-year-old corpse found in the Alps a few years back had been murdered. Guns do make mass murder easier. No doubt about that. But they also make defense easier. There’s much truth to the old saying that “God didn’t make men equal, Col. Colt did”. Without a legal recourse to firearms, potential victims will a) be outgunned by criminals who have no intention of being disarmed, or b) become the prey of criminals who are larger, stronger, and more aggressive than they are. Say what you will about pepper spray, martial arts classes, dogs, and loud whistles. The most effective way to stop an assailant is a 230-grain double-tap between the headlights, and the training to do it reflexively.

    Our penal system needs work, to say the least. But I’m not sure we’ve ever gotten this one right. We’ve gone from punishment to reform to warehousing, and recidivism has stubbornly stayed high, possibly about the same. Add this to plea bargains a la Spengler, violations committed while on parole/probation, and judges who never met a criminal they didn’t like, and it amazes me that we don’t have more violent crime, to include mass murder. And if I knew how to fix (as in repair) the system, I’d be selling it big-time.

  25. Capn Rusty Says:

    Steve: Generally speaking, the difference is intent. Killing without the intent to do so is manslaughter. It is difficult to understand how the prosecutor could maintain that Spengler did not intend to kill his grandmother when the weapon he used was a hammer. The lesser charge would have been more plausible if the weapon had been a gun.

  26. Gringo Says:

    Simon:
    “I just think if they don’t have easy access to guns they will kill fewer people.”
    Not that simple. After a school massacre, the U.K. banned handguns in 1998. A decade later, handgun crime had doubled.

    In 1987, Michael Ryan went on a shooting spree in his small town of Hungerford, England, killing 16 people (including his mother) and wounding another 14 before shooting himself. Since the public was unarmed—as were the police—Ryan wandered the streets for eight hours with two semiautomatic rifles and a handgun before anyone with a firearm was able to come to the rescue.
    Nine years later, in March 1996, Thomas Hamilton, a man known to be mentally unstable, walked into a primary school in the Scottish town of Dunblane and shot 16 young children and their teacher. He wounded 10 other children and three other teachers before taking his own life.
    Since 1920, anyone in Britain wanting a handgun had to obtain a certificate from his local police stating he was fit to own a weapon and had good reason to have one. Over the years, the definition of “good reason” gradually narrowed. By 1969, self-defense was never a good reason for a permit.
    After Hungerford, the British government banned semiautomatic rifles and brought shotguns—the last type of firearm that could be purchased with a simple show of fitness—under controls similar to those in place for pistols and rifles. Magazines were limited to two shells with a third in the chamber.
    Dunblane had a more dramatic impact. Hamilton had a firearm certificate, although according to the rules he should not have been granted one. A media frenzy coupled with an emotional campaign by parents of Dunblane resulted in the Firearms Act of 1998, which instituted a nearly complete ban on handguns. Owners of pistols were required to turn them in. The penalty for illegal possession of a pistol is up to 10 years in prison.
    The results have not been what proponents of the act wanted. Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time. Moreover, another massacre occurred in June 2010. Derrick Bird, a taxi driver in Cumbria, shot his brother and a colleague then drove off through rural villages killing 12 people and injuring 11 more before killing himself.
    Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens who have come into the possession of a firearm, even accidentally, have been harshly treated. In 2009 a former soldier, Paul Clarke, found a bag in his garden containing a shotgun. He brought it to the police station and was immediately handcuffed and charged with possession of the gun. At his trial the judge noted: “In law there is no dispute that Mr. Clarke has no defence to this charge. The intention of anybody possessing a firearm is irrelevant.” Mr. Clarke was sentenced to five years in prison. A public outcry eventually won his release.
    In November of this year, Danny Nightingale, member of a British special forces unit in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to 18 months in military prison for possession of a pistol and ammunition. Sgt. Nightingale was given the Glock pistol as a gift by Iraqi forces he had been training. It was packed up with his possessions and returned to him by colleagues in Iraq after he left the country to organize a funeral for two close friends killed in action. Mr. Nightingale pleaded guilty to avoid a five-year sentence and was in prison until an appeal and public outcry freed him on Nov. 29.

    The article has a similar history for Australia. One result of the handgun ban in the UK is that burglars have much less to fear from housebreaking than they do in the US. Moreover, homeowners who retaliate against housebreakers may be prosecuted. Sorry, I prefer the US.

  27. db Says:

    The deservedly eminent Thomas Sowell (1/25/2012):

    If I were rich, I would have a plaque made up, and sent to every judge in America, bearing a statement made by Adam Smith more than two-and-a-half centuries ago: “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.”

  28. Artfldgr Says:

    For an alternative to what spengler did, look up the abortion bombing with a double tap. that is, the bomb went off in the center, and in the parking lot, a short while later, where people were standing as a crowd, a second bomb went off knowing that they would gather there as they usually do in all kinds of events.

    its quite easy to create events, such as the fire, to exploit the common default behavior in such things.

    ergo my pointing out what happens when you reverse the exit and entrance signs in a building and yell fire… they go into the fire..

    same as with ideology… they reverse the signs so that they fight for freedom (slavery) and for peace (war) and so on..

  29. Parker Says:

    There is only one deterrent to homicidal maniacs; allow all who wish to be armed to be armed and to proclaim there are no gun free zones. It is that simple.

  30. n.n Says:

    They exploit real and manufactured differentials and gradients in order to advance their political, economic, and social standing. To this end, their concern for life, liberty, and happiness is selective. This is why elective abortion is considered a normal part of planned parenthood; why institutional discrimination that denigrates individual dignity is considered just; and why immigration exerts the rate of assimilation. This is why they are capable of arming terrorists and cartels while demonstrating little to no empathy for its human consequences. This is why they are capable of calling a technology “green” while shifting environmental and human disruption to a geographically isolated area. This is why they are conducting regime change on a multinational scale while previously condemning it. This is why they criticize physically harmless torture of a few terrorists while delegating murder, rape, and enslavement of non-combatants to surrogate interests. This is progressive corruption realized to become conclusive corruption.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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