Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Spangler: Black Widower

The Lonely Widower,
Part II

While Bob was busy with his failing marriage to Donna, second wife Sharon's life was falling apart. Michael, her boyfriend, was even in worse shape than she was, and when Bob reopened communications and told her about Donna's death, Sharon thought she might be able to lean on Bob, as always. Besides, she needed the comfort only her dogs could provide, so in July, 1994, she came to visit him in Durango and ended up staying in Bob's guest room.

But it didn't help. Shadow, her dog and best friend, died, and Sharon was inconsolable. She spent day after day crying and mourning the loss.

Bob, meantime, was the happiest disc jockey Durango had ever seen. Always ebullient, upbeat to a fault, he coached soccer and hiked local trails, always with a smile on his face. He reveled in his minor celebrity.

John Mackley, his boss at the small radio station, never even knew Bob had a wife between Nancy and Donna, much less that she was back living with him. Spangler never once mentioned her to any of his coworkers.

And then on October 2, 1994, just five months after moving back in with Bob, the 52-year-old Sharon's grief became too much for her to bear. She took an overdose of prescription medication and left a note on her bedroom door, "I've done it this time."

From there, the details get sketchy. As usual, Bob would change his story. One version he told had him come home, see the note, try to rouse an unresponsive Sharon, and he carried her immediately to the emergency room. In another version, he came home, saw the note, but didn't pay any attention to it until much later, when he went into her room, found her groggy, and helped her into the car and took her to the emergency room.

What is certain, is that she died a few hours after being treated in the hospital. Again, details are foggy. One account says that the doctors who treated her thought she'd be fine, but she was left alone in a room for a while with Spangler just before she died.

Regardless, she did die, there was no investigation into her death, and Spangler no longer had to pay the spousal support. He also got the $20,000 back from her estate (had to file a lawsuit to get it), as had been stipulated in their divorce agreement, and he had her cremated right away.

His co-workers at the small radio station never knew. They never knew he had another wife, never knew she was living with him after Donna's death, never knew he had taken her to the emergency room, never knew she had died.

Even he must have thought that would sound like one too many dead wives.

Bill Burnett, one of Donna's friends, certainly thought so, and phoned a friend in law enforcement to look into it.


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