Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Spanbauer, Serial Child Killer and Rapist

Life's a Beach

During his prison time, Spanbauer's mother, Evelyn, hammered authorities with letters encouraging her son's release at his parole hearings.  She wrote to Gov. Warren Knowles and claimed her son was not a pervert, and Spanbauer's conviction was a result of the rape victim being a licentious woman, and of Spanbauer being poor.

Governor Warren Knowles
Governor Warren Knowles

His mother's efforts were useless.  Prison officials constantly suspected him of homosexual liaisons with other inmates, especially younger prisoners.  They also noted he was an intelligent and good worker, yet his temper was vicious. During his 1971 parole hearing, Spanbauer had an outburst and later claimed he had no control over what he couldn't alter.  While in prison, he got a tattoo of a devil on his forearm and it would be a symbol of his potential for evil and an incriminating mark.

He was finally released in May of 1972 and it seemed like his was making positive steps in his life.  He enrolled at Madison Area Technical College and maintained a B average while living at the YMCA at the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison.  But he quickly became entangled in the local crime scene.  He let an escaped prisoner borrow his car and the fugitive was arrested after a robbery in nearby Middleton.  Spanbauer was dangerously close to going back to prison.

In 1913, the Wisconsin government created the first prisoner work release program for those in county jails.  Inmates are allowed go to work in the morning, but must return to jail to stay overnight.  Known as the "Huber Law," it is has long been a part of Wisconsin's legal lingo:

"I heard Crazy Joe is in jail for beating up a drunk farmer at the Hilltop Tavern."

"Yeah, but he scored a job as a janitor at Lambeau Field and is out on Huber."

For being involved in the robbery case, Spanbauer did some time in the Dane County Jail but was able to get out with Huber Law privileges working for the Madison Parks Department. 

Madison is often called by its nickname "Mad Town," and it's been referred to as "The City of Four Lakes." Two of the lakes, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona characterize the city by forming a narrow isthmus that blends the downtown, university, and capitol districts.  The lakes lend the city much beauty and dotting the shoreline are parks with beaches.  As soon as the warm spring weather starts blending into hints of a hot summer, the beaches are loaded with coeds from the university.

Spanbauer worked the parks and the city beaches in the hot summer sun of 1972.  He eyeballed the bikini-clad women lying in the sun.  He just spent 13 years in prison.  The half-naked women at the beach drove him mad with sexual urges.  Later he told psychiatrists he did what he did out of sexual frustration, and he simply couldn't wait any longer.  He said to a social worked that he was "asocial," and must have been "born retarded."


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