David Spanbauer — the serial rapist who abducted and murdered two young girls and then killed a young Appleton woman during a botched burglary —died in prison at the age of 61.
David Spanbauer — called “pure evil” at his sentencing by Outagamie County Circuit Judge James Bayorgeon —never expressed remorse for his crimes. He was sentenced eight years ago to three life terms in prison without parole plus 403 years.
A lifelong burglar and thief from Oshkosh, Spanbauer spent most of his adult life in prison. However, during his short periods of freedom, he wreaked havoc and in 1992 and 1994, he terrorized northeast Wisconsin.
He murdered 10-year-old Ronelle Eichstedt of Ripon in 1992, and 12-year-old Cora Jones of Waupaca two years later. In each case, he grabbed the girls while they were riding bikes, molested them and dumped their bodies in remote areas.
Breaking into an Appleton house he thought was unoccupied in July 1994, he found Trudi Jeschke, 21, in a bedroom. She was housesitting. He shot her to death.
Dodge County Coroner John Burgbacher said David Spanbauer, 61, was pronounced dead at 4:25 p.m. at the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun apparently from heart disease or liver cancer.
David Spanbauer had been in failing health for the past two years.
“At least my tax money is no longer going to keep him alive,” said Rick Jones, of rural Waupaca, the father of David Spanbauer’s last victim.
“I always look at my check stub at my taxes and I always knew that I was paying for health care for the guy who killed my daughter,” he said Monday. “There will be a party tonight.”
Appleton attorney Thomas Zoesch represented David Spanbauer and remained his unofficial counsel over the years.
Zoesch said his most recent communications with Spanbauer centered around negotiating an interview with The Post-Crescent.
“I think he wanted to cleanse his soul,” said Zoesch. “I really think he wanted to bare his soul, but there was a monetary motivation as well.”
Spanbauer’s conditions for an interview included cash payment as well as conducting the interview outside the prison.
The Post-Crescent does not pay for interviews.
Spanbauer’s last letter to Zoesch was dated July 19.
“I want to know if they (The Post-Crescent) are going to do it or not,” wrote David Spanbauer.
He said in the letter that “things are getting tight,” and that he was down to $100 in his canteen fund.
Zoesch also said Spanbauer had left instructions with the infirmary staff not to resuscitate him in the event of a medical emergency.
Apparently, those orders were carried out.
David Spanbauer, to the best of Zoesch’s knowledge, did not leave any letters of confession or contrition and Zoesch maintains Spanbauer has accounted for all of his crimes.
“There would have been no reason for him to withhold confessing to another crime.”
Detective Dan Woodkey of the Appleton Police Department said David Spanbauer was a manipulator, always seeking to get some benefit from his interrogators.
“He’d request things we’d never give him,” Woodkey said. “I’d never give him a moment’s satisfaction.”
Once, when Woodkey and investigator Randy Cook were transporting Spanbauer from a Minnesota prison, there was news on the radio of a break-in in which a young girl was murdered.
“He was in the back seat talking about how terrible it was, and the whole time he never expressed any remorse for killing those three young ladies,” Woodkey said. “We couldn’t believe what we were hearing.”
Outagamie County Dist. Atty. Vince Biskupic prosecuted Spanbauer in December 1994 for crimes committed in five counties, including the three murders.
“You would be hard-pressed to find someone in the state of Wisconsin who would be shedding a tear over his death,” Biskupic said.
Jeschke’s murder came just days after an Illinois woman foiled an attempted abduction by David Spanbauer near Hartman Creek State Park in Waupaca County while she was on a bike.
Spanbauer’s criminal career began when he was a juvenile, but his serious offenses started shortly after his dishonorable discharge from the Navy in 1959 and included the rape of a 16-year-old girl and the shooting of her uncle.
It was the abductions and murders of Eichstedt and Jones, though, that shocked northeastern Wisconsin communities and launched one of the area’s most intensive police investigations.
The investigation into the Eichstedt abduction and murder had gone cold at the time 12-year-old Cora Jones’ bike was found lying in the middle of Sanders Road in the Waupaca County Town of Dayton on Labor Day 1994.
A massive search began the next day that involved hundreds of volunteers combing an area within a 10-mile radius of the missing girl’s bike.
The search for Jones garnered national attention after the FBI joined in the case, and a rural Waupaca church was quickly turned into a search center. Jones’ body was found five days later in Langlade County.
The investigation continued while a series of seemingly unconnected crimes were going on in the Appleton area, including two home-invasion sexual assaults in Appleton in which a 15-year-old girl and a 31-year-old woman were victimized.
On Nov. 14, 1994, a Combined Locks man saw a man trying to break into his house. He chased the man down and tackled him. The suspect, Spanbauer, was booked into jail on burglary charges and quickly became a suspect in the murders.
Four days later, David Spanbauer confessed to the murders of Jones, Eichstedt and Jeschke, as well as to the sexual assaults and assorted burglaries. He also confessed to the attempted abduction of the woman near Hartman Creek State Park.
David Spanbauer ultimately entered guilty pleas to 18 felonies from five counties Dec. 8. Bayorgeon sentenced Spanbauer Dec. 20, 1994.
Vicki Jones, Cora’s mother, said his death brings her peace.
“It is kind of a relief. It is a weight off of our shoulders,” she said. “We have been waiting eight years, and we know how bad death is. But after what he did to Cora he didn’t deserve to live.”
Woodkey called Linda Jeschke, the mother of Trudi, within minute of learning of Spanbauer’s death. “She said, ‘The case is finally over.’”
Larry Shadick, chief deputy for the Langlade County Sheriff’s Department, remembered the fear that ran through the area after Jones’ body was found Sept. 10 in the ditch alongside a rural town road. Ultimately, it was an officer with his department who heard Spanbauer’s confession.
“In our little department and in our community, nobody could sleep until he was found,” said Shadick. “Our citizens were so frightened. In a small community they expect a lot out of law enforcement and they expect every crime to be solved.”
The murder investigation was conducted by a task force made up of investigators from the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Department, the Langlade County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation.
A reward fund approached $150,000.
credit murderpedia / Dan Wilson and Ed Culhane