Monday, July 29, 2013

No parole for sniper who hated Mondays; She killed 2, wounded 9 in '79 San spree, by Anne Krueger

January 22, 1993, San Diego Union-Tribune, No parole for sniper who hated Mondays; She killed 2, wounded 9 in '79 San spree, by Anne Krueger

Staff Writer

22-Jan-1993 Friday

CORONA -- Spencer, who has been imprisoned since she killed two people and wounded nine others in a 1979 San schoolyard shooting, was turned down yesterday for a chance at parole.

Spencer, 30, did not appear before the three-member Board of Prison Terms panel considering her first opportunity for parole from the Frontera women's prison. But she said in a written statement that she plans to file a legal challenge to her conviction on two murder charges and one of assault with a deadly weapon, contending that authorities conspired against her.

Spencer pleaded guilty to the charges in October 1979, just as her trial was to begin, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Spencer, then 16, fired a volley of bullets from her house toward the Cleveland Elementary School playground Jan. 29, 1979. She told a reporter who called her during the 6 1/2 -hour siege that she opened fire because, "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day."

The shooting attracted worldwide attention, and an Irish rock group, the Boomtown Rats, wrote a song titled " I Don't Like Mondays. "

In her statement yesterday, Spencer claimed for the first time that she had been under the influence of drugs and alcohol when she opened fire.

She also contended that police, prosecutors and her defense attorney conspired to fabricate laboratory test results that revealed no drugs in her system after she surrendered to police.

She alleged she was given mind-altering drugs for two years after her arrest and did not realize until a few months ago that she had signed an agreement to plead guilty to first-degree murder.

"People who saw me say I was a zombie (during her court hearings)," Spencer said in her statement. "I said what they told me to say, I did what they told me to do."

Spencer said in her statement that she is active in a prison group of about 50 women who contend that they were given mind-altering drugs while they were jailed awaiting trial. She said she plans to file a federal civil rights suit and is seeking help from state legislators and members of Congress.

Both former prosecutor, who is now a Municipal Court judge, and Spencer's attorney, McGlinn, vehemently denied that any evidence was hidden in her case.

"It's just absolute nonsense," said. "There was never any indication that any test results were in any way falsified."

McGlinn, who wrote a letter on Spencer's behalf that was read at yesterday's hearing, said Spencer was trying to challenge her conviction because she realized that the state Board of Prison Terms is not giving parole dates to prisoners. He said Spencer got the best defense he could give her.

"It obviously was a tragic case, but we couldn't do any better than we did, " McGlinn said. "She got our fullest attention."

Spencer's claims, outlined in the statement read by Jallins, an El Cajon lawyer who represented her at the hearing, elicited little sympathy from members of the parole board.

Former state senator Nielsen, the chairman of the board, said Spencer had somewhat recognized her responsibility for the crime, but said, "That acknowledgement is woven in a web of denial, excuse and blame-claiming."

The board members -- Nielsen, former El Cajon state assemblywoman Carol Bentley and former San Diego Police Department assistant chief Manny Guaderrama -- said Spencer would have to wait three years before she would again be considered for parole.

Spencer opened fire from her house on Lake Atlin Avenue across the street from the school at 8:30 a.m., just as students were heading into their classes from the playground.

Principal Burton Wragg, 53, was killed, and Mike Suchar, 56, the school's head custodian was shot in the chest and killed when he ran to help Wragg. Eight children were wounded as they ran for cover, and a police officer was wounded in the neck.

Authorities drove a trash disposal truck between Spencer's house and the school to block her line of fire. After hours of negotiations with police, Spencer surrendered. Police found a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle and about 40 expended shells in her home.

Daryl, who was a teacher at Cleveland Elementary, saw Spencer's bullets hit and kill Wragg and Suchar. He also brought a wounded child into the school while screaming for someone to call police.

, who did not attend the hearing, said Spencer should never be released from prison.

"Everybody makes mistakes and should be forgiven, but to me it's a capital crime, " said, who is now a fifth-grade teacher at Hancock Elementary School in Tierrasanta." If the sentence is 25 years, she shouldn't be paroled until the 25 years are up."

Spencer contended in her statement to the parole board that she is remorseful for the crime but said she is not guilty of murder because she was under the influence of alcohol and the hallucinogenic drug PCP.

"I live with the unbearable pain every day of knowing that I was responsible for the death of two people and caused many others physical and emotional pain and suffering," Spencer said in the statement. " But I'm not a murderer."

She said that while under the influence of the drugs, she started to hallucinate and saw commando types in paramilitary gear advance toward her house. She said she barricaded herself in and started shooting, using the rifle her father had given her for Christmas.

She also said she doubts whether the victims were hit by bullets from her rifle, contending that they might have been shot by police and that police officers lied in court about how many shots they fired.

While in prison, Spencer has graduated from high school and taken college courses and vocational courses in electronics. She has had only minor disciplinary problems.

Deputy District Attorney Dave Berry urged the Board of Prison Terms members not to grant parole for Spencer, citing her lack of remorse and indications that she had planned the shootings days before they occurred.

While the board members deliberated for 35 minutes on their decision in Spencer's case, she could be seen in a small room next to the board's hearing room. Wearing glasses and with her red hair in a short punkish cut, she appeared much like her pictures following her 1979 arrest.

None of the victims of Spencer's shooting spree appeared at yesterday's hearing. Those contacted by a reporter said they did not know about the hearing and said officials had not told them it was scheduled.

Wragg's widow, Kathe, said she hopes Spencer never gets out of prison.

"I could never feel trustworthy of a person like that," Wragg said. "Just the idea that she felt she had to kill somebody. It's so self-serving and inward. I would never want her to be out. I have not seen any remorse."

Wragg, who never remarried, said she is constantly reminded of her husband's death.

"This is always on my mind. You never forget," she said. "It did a lot to our family."

Norman Buell's daughter, Christy, was 9 when she was hit twice by bullets fired by Spencer. Buell, who works with troubled adolescents in a group home, said he would have no objection to Spencer being paroled from prison. He cited Spencer's youth at the time of the shooting and his belief that Spencer was abused.

"Those things put together are not a good chemical mix and I could see where it would happen," Norman Buell said. "I personally would say that she's served her sentence."

Christy Buell, now 23, works at a daycare center in San . Buell said one child who was enrolled at the center was the offspring of Spencer's father, Wallace, and his present wife, who was Spencer's 17-year-old cellmate when she was being held at Juvenile Hall.

Wallace Spencer still lives in the same house across the street from the former Cleveland Elementary School, which is now the home of San Diego Hebrew Day School. He refused to comment when contacted by a reporter.

Crime Library,

School Killers, by Katherine Ramsland,\

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