Bob Spangler not only got away with the premeditated murders of his wife of 23 years & their two children, but he also killed at least one more wife and walked. Had he not possessed an ego the size of Texas, this serial killer would certainly never have been caught.
Bob and Nancy Spangler had been together since they were kids. She was the beauty queen, and he the football star; if you were to ask around you’d learn that these high school sweethearts had once been a perfect pair. After college Bob took a job working for the Water Works company, and Nancy stayed at home to become a mother; their son, David, was born first, and then came a daughter they named Susan. Life was good, for a while – but eventually the couple began to grow apart. When her children were older and Nancy felt that they didn’t need her full time anymore, the mother decided that she wanted to make a life for herself outside the home; she planned to enter the workforce. Bob wasn’t too keen on this idea; though he’d been carrying on with a woman he’d met on the job, he still wanted to keep his own wife at home.
The marriage was in trouble, for sure; there were screaming matches, and at some point Bob even moved out. But Nancy had truly loved her husband, he was the only man she’d ever really known; no matter how miserable she was, it doesn’t seem that she had the heart to fully remove Bob from her life. When her husband came to her before the holidays to propose a reconciliation, of course she said yes. Nancy never could have dreamed that her husband’s intentions were anything but pure, or that her children’s lives had been in danger in the presence of their very own father.
Early on the morning of December 30th in 1978 Bob called Nancy down to the basement, he said that he’d had a surprise for her; Nancy came downstairs and her husband asked that she please sit quietly in a chair and close her eyes – no peeking! It was the day before New Year’s Eve and bless her heart, the woman must’ve believed that this was some sort of romantic holiday gesture. While she sat patiently awaiting her surprise, Bob retrieved his .38 and shot his 45 year old wife in the head.
Next, Bob proceeded to climb the stairs; he walked to 15 year old Susan’s room where she lay sleeping, and he quickly shot his daughter in the back. His 17 year old son, David, was up next, but the teenager had not been asleep – it is likely that he’d been awakened by the sound of gunshots. He shot David, but the bullet didn’t instantly kill him. Since he had already decided not to use more than one bullet per victim, the father smothered his already injured son to death with a pillow.
Once the deed was done and his entire family was deceased, Bob ventured back downstairs to type out a suicide note. He placed the typewriter on the table in front of his murdered wife’s slumped body, then Bob went to work as he would’ve on any other ordinary day. Later that afternoon Susan’s teenaged boyfriend came to the house, and he was the one who discovered the grisly scene.
For the most part it all went off without a hitch, just as Bob had hoped it would. It did not matter that the trajectory of the bullet which had killed Nancy would be highly unlikely for a suicide, or that Bob couldn’t pass a polygraph to save his life. The man even tested positive for gunshot residue! He’d originally told police that his family had been alive and well the last time he’d seen them, but after that pesky GSR test Bob had to change his story. Now he claimed that he’d come home earlier in the day and yes, he had discovered his wife’s corpse; in shock he’d picked up the firearm without thinking, dropped it back onto the ground, then ran out of the residence without even bothering to check on the welfare of his very own children! After work he found his home swarming with police, and he just pretended he’d had no idea that his wife was dead. Somehow this ridiculousness was deemed plausible!
As for Nancy’s motives when it came to murdering her own children, Bob explained that he’d asked his wife for a divorce just the night before and that this had turned into a heated argument over who would keep the kids. Nancy must’ve decided that if she couldn’t have custody of the nearly grown children who had lived with her in their father’s absence once before, then nobody could. The suicide note conveniently backed this up, and since the type written letter had been signed with Nancy’s initials, naturally she must’ve written it. The coroner deemed the deaths as murder suicide, and that was that. Bob was in the clear – he even had the audacity to parade his mistress around at the funeral, in front of Nancy’s grief stricken family!
After he had annihilated his entire family, Bob went about his life just as he’d wanted. He moved his mistress, Sharon Cooper, into the home which he’d shared with his wife and children, and within seven months they were married. Wife number two had adored nature, the great outdoors, and especially hiking – she’d even written a much respected book called “On Foot In The Grand Canyon”. Though Bob would later say that Sharon was the love of his life, the union did not last. Sharon had grown paranoid of her husband, and in 1987 had even called the police to say that she was afraid for her life. Around this time Bob’s father passed away, which left him with a good deal of inheritance money; a judge ordered Bob to give his ex $150K of that cash plus $500 per month for several years. It seemed that Sharon had gotten away from this killer with her life, but only for the moment – nobody escaped Bob Spangler and lived, not for long.
Bob wasn’t one to stay single, he placed an ad in the local lonely hearts column and this is how the killer met his next victim. In 1985 Bob tied the knot to a well loved 58 year old aerobics instructor and divorced mother of five, her name was Donna Sundling. Eight years into his marriage (big surprise!) the relationship was in trouble. It had seemed that divorce was imminent, but suddenly Bob had a change of heart! He’d wanted to reconcile, and was convinced that a romantic hiking trip in the Grand Canyon in April of 1993 would fix everything. Now Donna was not what anyone would refer to as an experienced hiker – she was absolutely petrified of heights, and it is safe to say that this was not her idea of a good time! She did her best to talk her husband into vacationing somewhere (anywhere!) else, but Bob had his little heart set on taking this particular trip. Donna did want to give her marriage a fighting chance, so in the end she relented. It seems that she must’ve had a bad feeling in her gut about it all – that her intuition had been telling her that something was wrong. Her children would later recount that Donna had called each and every one of them to say goodbye before she left, and she’d let them know that she’d been afraid.
So the pair went on their camping trip in Horseshoe Mesa, and on Easter Sunday they hiked the Grandview Trail. Donna’s fear of heights obviously hadn’t been taken into account as Bob had somehow convinced his wife to climb as high up as they could go. He would later claim that he had not been paying close attention to Donna during the moment in which she’d fallen to her death, he’d been busy getting the camera set up so that he could catch a photo of his wife as she’d stood with her back to the edge of the 200 foot cliff. He said that he’d heard a noise, and when he’d turned around, Donna was simply gone.
Bob hiked down 160 feet to search for his wife, and there she was, deader than a door nail. He claimed to have sat there with Donna for a few moments, just paralyzed with shock and grief. He even made sure to recount to police that he had ever so lovingly wiped the blood from her face before he left to inform authorities of the tragic accident.
Police had no reason to not believe the man – well, not at first. It could’ve happened just as he’d said, and Bob played the part of the grief stricken husband so perfectly – and why wouldn’t he? He’d had plenty of practice! The case drew national attention, and Bob put on quite the show for the cameras. This murder would never have been seen as anything more than an accident had someone not called to inform investigators of the death of Bob’s first family.
Now that they’d been informed of Nancy and the kids, it all fell into place for police – it was clear as day that Bob was a killer, but how could this be proven? The FBI even got involved with the case, but there just wasn’t any real evidence to prove what they knew; once again Bob had gotten away with the cold blooded murder of someone who’d deeply loved him.
After he’d murdered his third wife, Donna, the killer somehow managed to reconcile with his second wife, Sharon; she was the only one he’d ever divorced. In 1994, Sharon overdosed while in Bob’s home, and her untimely death was immediately deemed a suicide. Bob had all the motive in the world for wanting to murder the one who’d gotten away, the one he’d been forced to pay alimony. Still, this death was never investigated, and once again Bob walked away scot free.
7 years later, in 2000, Bob had married again; the new wife, Judy, had not been told anything about her husband’s past. When investigators learned that Bob had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, they decided that if they were ever going to clear Nancy’s name, now had better be the time. The FBI brought Bob in for an interview and they played on his ego. They told him that they knew he was this brilliantly unique serial killer and that they would be honored to study his brain, but first they would need him to confess his crimes. Incredibly this worked! Bob told police that he wanted to visit the Grand Canyon once more, that he would like to get his affairs in order, and then he would tell them everything they wanted to know.
He was true to his word – once he’d done all that he needed to do, Bob did eagerly confess. He had been very proud of what he’d accomplished and wanted to be recognized as a serial killer before he passed. He stated that he had killed his family after he’d fallen in love with his mistress, and that he had simply needed to get his current baggage out of the way. Bob admitted that once he’d put this mind to it, following through with the murders was rather easy. As far as Nancy’s damming suicide note, Bob bragged that he’d tricked her into signing her initials at the bottom of a blank sheet of paper well ahead of time, before he’d ever typed out the suicide note. As for his third wife, Donna, well, Bob explained that he’d come to the conclusion that murder would simply be cheaper than a divorce.
Bob never would admit to having murdered his second wife, he claimed that Sharon truly had committed suicide – not that this means a whole lot. Serial killers have been known to keep a secret for themselves, often a victim they refuse to share. In the end Bob had been extremely persistent that he was a serial killer, he was extremely proud of this, and the fact that he’d gotten away with it for so long.
This killer was quickly sentenced to life, but he passed away very soon afterwards, on August 5th of 2001. Still, police say that it was definitely worth all the trouble, since Nancy’s name was finally cleared. Her family never did believe the allegations against her, they always knew that she hadn’t been capable of murdering her children, and it was difficult to deal with the fact that the world believed her to be a monster. After all of these years Nancy is finally recognized as the victim that she was.
*I know, it’s been a while since I’ve posted! I’ve had some things going on, ended up in the hospital with chest pains, was told it was probably anxiety. Still it really scared me! I’m alright, and I hope you are too. A version of this article has been posted before, but there’s a ton of new info available so, it’s been overhauled. There’s also a new Patreon article available, if you’re subscribed to that.