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.