Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Spangler: Black Widower

Nancy's Family's Suspicions

The first thing that got Stahlman family members suspicious about the murders was their conviction that their Nancy would never hurt herself or her children. Her children were her life, according to the Denver Rocky Mountain News. Nancy's friends and family members knew that she and Bob had been having some marital difficulties he even moved out for a time, but the day before the murders, she was upbeat and hopeful about their reconciliation, in spite of the fact that Bob had been having an affair with a coworker.

And then there were the inconsistencies in Spangler's story and the evidence.

Shortly after the murders, Spangler's story changed. Later, he told police that he came home, saw the bodies, and then went to the movies, without calling anybody. He said he meant to call the police, and he was going to when he got back home again, after he'd had a chance to process what he'd seen, but by the time he got back home, the police were already there, having been summoned by Susan's boyfriend.

There were more inconsistencies.

The tests showed gunshot residue on Bob's gloves but not on Nancy's hand.

Tests showed no fingerprints on the typewriter, but instead, there were obvious "wipe marks." Why would Nancy wipe the keys of her typewriter after typing a suicide note that she had merely signed with her initial "N"?

Police evidence shows the location of the gun when it was fired
Police evidence shows the location of the gun when it was fired

Then the coroner determined that the handgun was fired from "intermediate range," meaning two to eight inches away from her head. Most self-inflicted gunshot wounds are contact wounds, the muzzle of the gun pressing against the skin. Women hardly ever shoot themselves in the face, but Nancy's bullet entry wound was high on her forehead. She had a neurological disorder that resulted in weakness and unsteadiness in her hands, casting further suspicions on whether or not she could hold a gun so far from her forehead and fire it.

Besides, Nancy was afraid of guns.

Not only was it unlikely she could or would fire a gun like that at herself, there was no way she could have wrestled with seventeen year old David, who clearly had wrestled with someone. Nancy weighed about a hundred pounds.

And then the gun was found five and a half feet away from her body.

None of this added up to Nancy's relatives. Even the police were suspicious, but there was no concrete evidence with which to charge her husband, Bob Spangler.

He even showed up for his polygraph test. Twice. Both times he hyperventilated, rendering the tests useless.

He was nervous, he said.

Her family said he knew how to ace the test.

He had all three bodies cremated right away.


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