Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Spanbauer, Serial Child Killer and Rapist

The Bicycles

Winneconne, Wisconsin
Winneconne, Wisconsin

Winneconne is a small town of the Fox valley region, not far from Spanbauer's known circle of roaming around.  In the early 1990's, a band of drunken redneck teenagers called the "Winneconne Possum Kickers," prowled back roads and shined opossums with flashlights.  Once the opossum froze up, they kicked the animal to death with steel-toe work boots.  That was evening entertainment for the local juvenile delinquents of the area in a time when women and girls started disappearing.

Winneconne was the home of 20-year-old Laura Depies.  She worked at the Fox River Mall in Grand Chute and when she finished her shift on August 19, 1992, she went over to visit her friends in Menasha and she never showed up.  Her friends found her locked car in their apartment parking lot.  David Spanbauer just started his summer vacation the day before.  She is still missing to this day. 

Laura Depies
Laura Depies

Another girl disappeared. Her bicycle was found near her rural home in Ripon in Fond du Lac County on August 23, 1992.    Six weeks later her body was found about 100 miles away in a cornfield ditch near Tower Hill State Park, not far from the Wisconsin River.  Her name was Ronelle Eichstedt.  She was ten years old.  David Spanbauer raped and killed her.  He used his 1988 four-door Eagle Premiere to transport her body.  He sold that and later bought a maroon 1991 Pontiac Bonneville. 

Ronelle Eichstedt
Ronelle Eichstedt

Almost two years later, on the Fourth of July of 1994, 24-year-old Miriam Stariha was riding her bike on a country road near Hartman Creek State Park when a maroon Pontiac banged into her bike hard enough for her to crash.  Spanbauer emerged from the car.  He said he was trying to scare her, and he held a pistol.  Another car coming down the road, slowed down and Spanbauer got back in his car and drove away.

Hartman Creek State Park welcome center
Hartman Creek State Park welcome center

Stariha reported the incident to the police. The FBI hired a professional artist from California to sketch out the suspect's features, one of six pictures of what they thought the attacker might look like, including a side profile.  State and federal investigators in charge of the case were unsure if they had reliable composite drawings and they decided only to release the sketches to involved law enforcement bodies.  They already had plenty of leads to follow-up on and the special agents did not want a flood of bad tips coming in if the sketch were shown to the public.

 

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