Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Spanbauer, Serial Child Killer and Rapist

No Tears

Spanbauer knew prison life.  He knew very well what the prison population's attitude is toward to high-profile child rapists and killers.  He knew he would end up dead, and he told his fears to his attorney. Spanbauer's lawyer, Tom Zoesch, presented a deal for Spanbauer to be imprisoned in another state. 

Jeffery Dahmer in custody
Jeffery Dahmer in custody

It was not an unthinkable concern.  Around the time of Spanbauer's arrest in November 1994, Wisconsin's most vicious serial killer and boy rapist, the Milwaukee cannibal Jeffery Dahmer, had been doing time in the Columbia Correctional Institute in Portage.  While working janitorial duties with two other convicts, he was found dead with a crushed skull.  His fellow inmate, Christopher Scarver, beat him to death with a broom handle.

Inmate Christopher Scarver
Inmate Christopher Scarver

The deal was cut and Spanbauer saved himself from being shanked.  He was sent to the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Faribault, Minnesota, a medium-security prison. While serving his time there, he returned back to Appleton for a secret court hearing in early December 1998.  His health at the time was poor, but he made the trip to inform the police where he ditched the murder weapon in the 1994 Jeschke case.  Menominee Park in Oshkosh, he told them and with his accurate details, the police located the gun within half an hour.

Minnesota Correctional Facility at Faribault
Minnesota Correctional Facility at Faribault

In October 2000, he was secretly transferred back over the state line to Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun.  Spanbauer's lawyer, Tom Zoesch, didn't know about the transfer, only that the letters they exchanged mysteriously stopped that autumn.  He was informed of Spanbauer's presence in Wisconsin by a journalist when the story broke in the local media in early May 2001 that the killer was back in the state.  The reason cited for the move was that Spanbauer was suffering from heart problems and that the prison at Waupun could attend to his medical condition better because it staffed a 24-hour infirmary. 

Zoesch noted in his contact with Spanbauer over the years that he was friendly, smart, and polite yet he had a side of evil and darkness, "a kind of a Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde personality," he said.  In Spanbauer's remaining months he was trying to arrange for an interview with the Post-Crescent for a fee.  He wanted to clean his conscious and make a few bucks on the side.  It never happened since the newspaper's policy is not to pay for interviews.

Spanbauer died on Monday, July 29th, 2002 at Dodge Correctional Institution.  He was pronounced dead at 4:25 p.m. in the prison hospital. An autopsy revealed that final stage liver disease and coronary heart disease were the causes of death.  Spanbauer previously instructed the doctors that he should not be resuscitated if he flat-lined. 

Biskupic, who now is in private practice, commented that "you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who is shedding a tear over this death." His body was not claimed and no family was present when Spanbauer was buried on Thursday near the prison grounds, but the details were handled by Spanbauer's niece in Florida, who felt that Spanbauer almost treated her "like a daughter." A prison chaplain performed a brief funeral rite. 

When the father of Cora was notified about Spanbauer's death he said he felt shocked at first then felt a sense of relief, as if a weight was taken off him, and that it was time that Spanbauer met the "true judge."  He also was disgusted at the idea of his tax dollars paying for Spanbauer's incarceration and medical care every time he looked at his paycheck.  "There will be a party tonight," he said.


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