Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Spanbauer, Serial Child Killer and Rapist

Evil Management 101

When Spanbauer was sentenced to three life terms plus 403 years in prison, Judge Bayorgeon called him "pure evil," and after he was locked up, the legacy of David Spanbauer raged in Wisconsin's opinion pages, courtrooms and congressional halls.

The Officers present represented members of the Langlade County Sheriff's Department, Waupaca County Sheriff's Department, Wisconsin Department of Justice, and the Appleton Police Department
The Officers present represented members of the Langlade County Sheriff's Department, Waupaca County Sheriff's Department, Wisconsin Department of Justice, and the Appleton Police Department

The issues were numerous in the late 1990s. Many people thought the criminal justice system failed miserably because Spanbauer only served 13 years out of a 70-year sentence.  Again he was convicted, sentenced, and released again only to go on a rampage.   Spanbauer became a poster boy for tougher laws and bringing up his name in a political address was a sure way to appeal to the Wisconsin masses. Talk of the criminal justice reforms wasn't much to console the families of the victims.  A year after her death, a memorial service gathered to remember Cora Jones and a pink cross entwined with roses marked the place where she was abducted. 

State Representative Dean Kaufert
State Representative Dean Kaufert

State Representative Dean Kaufert of the Fox Valley region where Spanbauer hunted his victims, penned a bill supporting chemical castration of pedophiles.  It was later passed and approved by Governor Tommy Thompson. Some called for the death penalty to be reintroduced in Wisconsin.  In 1850, John McCaffry drowned his wife in a hogshead barrel in Kenosha and was executed by hanging in front of about 2,000 townspeople.  He was the last person to be executed in the state and in 1853 the death penalty was abolished.

In a related legal battle in 1996 regarding crime reporting and freedom of information, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and WTMJ Newsradio.  They sued the state of Wisconsin for withholding the prison records of Spanbauer, along with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and his killer, Christopher Scarver, and Jesse Anderson, a murderer associated with Dahmer's death.

There was another party that wanted to know more about Spanbauer's release from prison.  Carol Grady spent most of her life believing than Spanbauer would be behind bars for the crimes he perpetrated in 1960.  When the news of his 1994 arrest was broadcast, she was stunned and she felt like a victim again.  She thought Spanbauer would be an 86-year-old man when he would be finally released.  Disgusted and horrified that she was never notified of his earlier release; Grady campaigned for truth-in-sentencing and victim's rights advocacy.

In May of 1997, a truth-in-sentencing proposal arrived and it was spearheaded by Carol Grady with a petition holding thousands of signatures.   Felons would serve the time they are given—no early releases, and they would serve a "community supervision" term that is a minimum of a quarter of their prison sentence.  Twenty years in prison would mean twenty years.   The proposal met wide support from political parties on each end of the spectrum.

By the spring of 1998, the Wisconsin Senate passed a bill dubbed, "two-strikes-you're-out.''  It was designed for those that commit crimes against children.  If convicted twice, the offender would receive a life sentence.  The bill encompassed sexual assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment, incest, and nearly all forms of sexual exploitation or exposure.

The political winds carried the awareness of victim's rights, but in March of 1999, a television commercial aired across the state that angered people over its poor taste.  It was 60-second ad supporting Sharren Rose for a seat on the state Supreme Court and it used the voice of the grandmother of Cora Jones.  She tearfully said in a voiceover, ``Cora was 12 years old when she was abducted and murdered. It's been almost five years and I hurt just as bad.'' The commercial cuts in with the blunt message:  ``Wisconsin's sexual predator law was passed to stop what happened to Cora from ever happening again," and then it attacked the incumbent Justice Abrahamson, who once opposed the sexual predator law.  Critics of the commercial called it shameful cheap-shot that exploited the pain of Spanbauer's victims and their families.

Many people leave flowers and stuffed animals at the memorial for Cora Jones
Many people leave flowers and stuffed animals at the memorial for Cora Jones

The four-term Outagamie District Attorney Vince Biskupic continued to successfully prosecute violent criminals and his skills and passion propelled him to run as the 2002 Republican candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General. "Evil needs an adversary," he said, and he dropped one name as an example:  David Spanbauer.

 

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