Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Genetic Violence: Robert an Stephen Spahalski

Going Public

Four murder cases had been closed in the space of a day, and Spahalski was ordered held at the Monroe County jail without bail. He was photographed and fingerprinted, and his shoes were taken as potential evidence. Since he had lived for three decades in an area where a number of unsolved murders had occurred, investigators looked into other ways to link him to crimes he had not acknowledged.

Arthur Shawcross
Arthur Shawcross

Only a year before his first murder, Arthur Shawcross had been picked up for eleven murders of prostitutes in the Rochester area. He had been convicted for those, but a number of others remained unsolved. Half a dozen were linked to another suspect, but he had died before any charges were brought.

Spahalski was not without his share of problems. Since he had been a teenager, he'd had a number of run-ins with the law, for such things as burglary, arson, and criminal trespass. He had even gone to prison four times for short stints, the first when he was 18, in 1973. As an adult, Spahalski had operated a male escort service and worked as a hustler. Given his persistent antisocial tendencies, multiple murder wasn't much of a stretch.

Hon. David T. Corretore
Hon. David T. Corretore

He was arraigned in the early hours of the morning of November 9, 2005, in front of Judge Corretore for the murder of Charles Grande. Soon he was charged for two additional second-degree murders, including that of Vivian Irizarry, while detectives looked for corroboration for the other two. It was never sufficient just to have a confession, which might always be recanted.

"I'm guilty," Spahalski stated. "I just want to get this over with." His usual strategy for dealing with unpleasant situations was to try to forget what he had done to others, but he believed he had a fatal illness and that it was time to set his affairs in order.

During his police interview, he had worried about being labeled a serial killer and indicated that he'd had different motives for each. One had been a dispute over money for sex, while another had supposedly been caused by hallucinations, a third occurred during an argument and subsequent robbery, and the fourth had happened when he "snapped" during a sexual encounter. Three had occurred in 1990 and 1991, while the fourth took place years later, three days prior to turning himself in. The victims' ages ranged between twenty-four and fifty-four. Two were strangled, while two were bludgeoned (and one of those was also strangled). Three victims were female and one was male; he had known them all, and two were friends.

Reporters were confused about this issue as well, since in New York the legal definition for a serial killer was having three or more victims, a similar method of killing, and crimes that had occurred within a fairly tight timeframe. In addition, Spahalski's behavior did not fit what has been claimed about serial killers: he did not have a clear victim type, he was not compulsive or predatory, he was able to stop, and he suffered remorse. The confusion over Spahalski is understandable, but, in fact, when analyzed case by case, serial killers often do not fit into neat categories. This was an issue of technicalities: Spahalski was a serial killer.

Not only that, his identical twin brother had committed a homicide as well.