Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Spanbauer, Serial Child Killer and Rapist

Prison Bride

Spanbauer manipulated the system before he was sentenced.  He asked Judge Bardwell to be sent to a place where he would receive treatment.  It was a shifting attitude of Spanbauer.  It was about Me, the victim—the one that needs help in a world where everyone was seemingly against him.

He picked up on the letter writing campaign from his mother. His strategy was to claim his innocence.  He wrote to Judge Bardwell claiming he was not guilty and that he was incapable of committing rape.  His reasoning was that since he was intimate with fear and pain as a violent rapist, he would therefore be unwilling to inflict those emotional states on others.  Bardwell's sentence was too harsh, he wrote, and some letters claimed he was innocent; others were attacks on the prison system written from his victimized frame of mind. 

He complained to state government officials that he was entitled to more education and social benefits.  He even complained that his prison wages weren't making enough money in interest.  It played into his idea that he was a victim but writing letters also passed the time.  Mostly he held down various jobs in prison and took some technical classes, and he waited for Carol to come by for a visit.

Carol Patterson was a 30-year-old divorced mother of four and welfare recipient.  She heard of Spanbauer from a friend who had a husband in the same prison. She first met him in October 1975 and became a regular visitor, to the point where she moved to Beaver Dam so she could be closer to make her daily visit at Waupun State Prison.  She unequivocally believed that Spanbauer was innocent of the rape charges that put him behind bars and no one, not even her social worker, could change her mind.

Waupun State Prison
Waupun State Prison

They got married in July 1976 and for Spanbauer, his new wife was one more tool to help him gain leverage in his parole hearings.  He penned more letters to prison officials and Judge Bardwell now using his status as a married man as an angle.  He claimed that because of family obligations, he was entitled to an early release and that his new thirteen year-old stepdaughter need "parental guidance."

This did not faze the Parole Board.  They knew it was a sham and in 1978, the couple filed for divorce.  The marriage only lasted two years.  The women in his life were leaving him.  While in prison, his younger sister died and his mother passed away.

In prison Spanbauer was treated for his sexual perversions and mental problems.  He spent some time in group therapy and mostly it seems that this was a ploy to receive a get-out-of jail-early card.  In 1986 when he was denied parole again, he swore he was done dealing with shrinks and their evaluations and therapies.  He even thought that the psychologists were getting more out of the therapy sessions than him.


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