Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Genetic Violence: Robert an Stephen Spahalski

Surprise in Rochester

Around mid-morning on Tuesday, November 8, 2005, in Rochester, N.Y., a tall, gaunt man with thinning black hair came into the police department. He gave his name, Robert Bruce Spahalski, and asked an officer at the reception counter if he could speak to a homicide detective.

Aerial map of Rochester N.Y.
Aerial map of Rochester N.Y.

"Do you have an appointment?" the receptionist asked.

He said he did not, but insisted that he had to speak with a detective right away.

She asked him his reason, and he startled her by replying that he just killed someone.

"Who?" she asked.

Spahalski told her the victim was a woman with whom he had been doing drugs a few days earlier. He gave the location as 202 Spencer Street and said she was in a back room in the basement of that building.

The officer noted that no homicide had been called in from at that location. She then notified Officer Lourdes Baez, while Spahalski waited at the counter.

Vivian Irizarry
Vivian Irizarry

Baez came out and asked, "What's the problem?" When she learned of Spahalski claim, she asked for more specific details. Spahalski said that he had killed Vivian Irrizary in his home. Her body was still there. No one else had known about it, so it had not yet been reported.

"When did you kill her," Officer Baez asked, "and how?"

Spahalski did not fully remember. He had been high on drugs, he admitted. Vivian had come over while his girlfriend was at work to smoke some crack cocaine. When she'd used a knife to open the bag, he claimed he had thought she'd become a demon. "I flipped out," he said. "It must have been a combination of the crack and some mental problems I have." He hit her three times in the head with a blunt object, knocking her down.

When he had regained some composure, he said, he had seen that she was still breathing but had soiled herself, so he had removed her clothing and washed her off. He had thought she was dying, so he "choked her out" with a piece of twine to put her out of her misery. He claimed he hadn't meant to kill her. His girlfriend came back with money, so he bought more crack and smoked it for several days. Then he checked Vivian's body, which had stayed cool, and decided to turn himself in.

Baez contacted the dispatcher to send a car to Spencer Street to look for the body and secure the scene. She invited Spahalski to continue to speak with her, but then Detective Glenn Weathers, who already knew Spahalski from previous encounters, entered and took over the questioning. They went together to Weathers' office on the fourth floor.

"Thank you for not putting handcuffs on me," Spahalski, 50, said. Several more detectives came in and introduced themselves. Spahalski consented to a search of his premises and agreed not to be present while it was done. He was taken into a small interview room, accompanied by two detectives, but he said he was claustrophobic. "Can I go to another room?" he asked.

They went into a nearby conference room. Spahalski took a seat at the end of the table, and the detectives placed themselves on either side of him. They gave him some cigarettes and advised him of his Miranda rights. He said he understood and told them he was willing to waive those rights in order to speak to the officers. He seemed alert and lucid, and the detectives saw no reason to question his competence to waive his rights.

With the legal formalities out of the way, the detectives asked about Spahalski's background and he told them he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and sometimes heard voices. Soon, the subject turned to his reason for being there. Detective Weather recorded the interrogation while Detective Benjamin asked the questions. What seemed like a fairly routine confession would turn into a fourteen-hour marathon.

 

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