Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Spangler: Black Widower

A Sudden Tragedy

When Timothy Trevithick received no answer to his knock on Susan Spangler's front door about 10:30 in the morning on December 30, 1978, he thought that was odd. Susan, his fifteen year-old girlfriend, was inside. He knew her brother and mother were both at home, too. Perhaps they had all overslept.

He knocked harder. And again, more insistently.

No answer.

Finally, Tim went around the house to the back, but found all the doors locked. He eventually shimmied through a basement window and went up the stairs, to find Susan apparently asleep in her bed.

Susan Spangler
Susan Spangler

Upon closer examination, he saw she was dead. She'd been shot, once, in the back. Her brother, David, was dead in his bed, too, after an apparent struggle. David had died with his head and shoulders on the floor, his feet still up on the bed. Blood from a single gunshot stained the front of his shirt.

David Spangler
David Spangler

Tim called the police.

When Susan's father, Bob, came home later that day from the movies, he found police cars and ambulances at his Littleton, Colorado home.

Inside was the ultimate horror: Not only were his children dead in their beds, but police found Nancy, his wife of 23 years,  slumped over in her chair near the typewriter where she had written her suicide note, Bob's Smith and Wesson .38 revolver on the floor by her. Upstairs, in their bedroom, a stepstool was still in front of the closet where he kept his gun in the back of the top shelf.

Spangler's .38 revolver
Spangler's .38 revolver

They'd been having marital troubles, Bob told the police, but he had no idea that Nancy was capable of anything like this. They'd been separated for nine months, but he had recently moved back into the house and they were trying their best to reconcile.

He agreed to take a polygraph test, to cooperate in any way that he could.

His hands and gloves were tested for gunshot residue, and then the technician who tested him for the telltale gunshot powder took the distraught Spangler home with him for a spaghetti dinner and to spend the night with his family. They were old friends.

And so, in one fell swoop, Robert Spangler was free of all family encumbrances. To all outward appearances, the event devastated him, but those who knew Nancy suspected there was more to the story.

Nancy Spangler, high school photo
Nancy Spangler, high school photo

They were right.


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