Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Genetic Violence: Robert an Stephen Spahalski

Nature and Nurture

Craig hoped to interview Robert one day as well: "We are seeking to talk to him in prison, but that could be months away because he is temporarily in transition at a holding prison where officials don't allow interviews."

He noted that Stephen demonstrated the same occasional disconnect with reality that was apparent in Robert's confession. "In the prison interview, Stephen claimed he recently communicated with his 1971 victim through computers at the prison, despite the fact that inmates aren't given unfettered access to computers and also despite the fact that his victim is, of course, very dead.

"Stephen tells that the two [he and Robert] often had those experiences you hear of with twins — thinking similar thoughts though miles apart, knowing what each other is up to. Clearly there is a connection between twins that often seems almost psychic. I'm not ready to make a definite leap to judgment that the genesis of the brutal acts of these two was as much genetic as environmental — but I also admit that I'm not ready to dismiss that possibility."

They did not seem to share the same attitudes about their homicides. "In his confession, Robert expressed remorse. Was it sincere? Only he can tell, and he's also a hustler who can lie with the best of them. Stephen, on the other hand, still seems to believe that his killing was justified. And in the interview Stephen claimed that there had to be good reasons for his brother's slayings: 'They must have deserved it,' he said of his brother's victims, as if the killings were self-defense and not the taking of innocent lives as each of the four murders was.

"It does seem that Robert had a bout of conscience and was, genuinely, remorseful — if only long enough to turn himself in to the police. It also seems that his final victim had been a friend to him, and perhaps this is what prompted the remorse — the realization that this time his violence had taken someone who had been genuinely kind towards him. You could surmise that he turned himself in because he likely would have been targeted as a suspect because of his connections with the victim. But the weakness with this theory is the fact that Robert had been a suspect in other murders he'd committed, but always managed to avoid arrest. Given that, it's likely that he believed he could, literally, get away with murder. That's why it does seem more likely that he truly regretted his final slaying."


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