GREENFIELD — The day before she died, Patricia Dresser called family members to report a break-in; she found her home in the Cricket Reel subdivision in disarray, and she was certain she knew who was responsible: Spencer Spielman.

Spielman, a 20-year-old Greenfield man Dresser had recently hired to do some work around her home, had the code to enter her garage door, and she was certain he’d ransacked the place, a relative told police said.

Thursday, when friends found Dresser’s body inside, they again pointed to the 20-year-old whom Dresser had trusted.

When officers caught up to Spielman, 1556 Prairieview Lane, Greenfield, he admitted to killing Dresser, police said. He pleaded not guilty to murder Monday afternoon in Hancock County Superior Court 1.

Story continues below gallery

Charging documents contain little detail about the moments leading up to Dresser’s death, but investigators say Spielman admitted to strangling her in her home Thursday night. An autopsy confirmed her death was a homicide, police said.

Friends who came to check on Dresser on Thursday night after not hearing from her for several hours found her body in the living room of her home, located in the 1100 block of Morningside Drive in the Cricket Reel subdivision in Greenfield.

Papers and personal items were strewn throughout the house when investigators arrived, and Dresser’s car was missing from the driveway, police said.

Local law enforcement officers were asked to keep an eye for the blue Ford Taurus; Friday night, the car was spotted in the parking lot of a Greenfield convenience store.

Spielman, who was driving, was questioned by detectives and ultimately admitted to robbing and killing Dresser, officials said.

Monday, prosecutors filed a murder charge against Spielman, in addition to a Level 5 felony count of robbery and a Class A misdemeanor of driving with a suspended license. He was being held in the Hancock County Jail on $250,000 cash bond at press time.

Dresser called her son the day before she died to say her house had been broken into, police said. Tuesday, she’d come home to find drawers in the kitchen and bedroom were rifled through, her son told police.

Dresser had agreed to pay Spielman to do housework for her after the young man came to her saying he needed money; it is unclear from charging documents how Spielman knew the Dresser family.

Dresser gave Spielman a code to use the garage door to get inside her home and a few dollars up front for the work, family members told police; but Spielman never returned to do the housework, court document state.

Relatives encouraged Dresser to contact police about the break-in last week, but she never made a report, according to court documents.

Police say Spielman returned to Dresser’s home overnight Wednesday and killed the woman.

Emergency dispatch records show police visited Dresser’s home Thursday afternoon when family reported having trouble contacting her. They knocked on the door but left when no one answered, assuming no one was home, records state.

Friends went to check the house Thursday around 10 p.m. and found Dresser’s body on the couch, according to court documents.

At the time, Dresser’s cause of death was not clear, police said.

Her cause of death was later ruled as asphyxiation, according to court documents.

Investigators noted the sash of Dresser’s bathrobe was likely used to strangle her, according to court documents.

Dresser leaves behind two grown sons, friends said. She worked as a realtor for many years and was a longtime member of Greenfield Tri Kappa sorority, friends said.

Dresser worked with Greenfield’s RE/MAX realty group for about eight years, owner Mark Dudley said. Word of her death spread slowly through the office over the weekend, shocking many of those who considered her a friend.

Dresser was outgoing and kind, he said. The betterment of the community was always on her mind, Dudley said.

Now, those living on Dresser’s quiet Greenfield street said they are shocked to hear the news she was killed.

Steve Foreman, who lives across the street from Dresser’s home, was drawn outside by the commotion Thursday night. When police arrived, they questioned neighbors and checked security cameras from some neighbors’ homes in hopes of collecting information, and they didn’t clear the area until early the next morning, he said.

That commotion returned a bit Monday as word of Dresser’s death spread. Foreman stood in his driveway, watching as cars drove by, slowing as they passed Dresser’s now empty home in one of Greenfield’s most affluent subdivisions.

“You would never think something like this would happen here,” he said.

At a glance

Defendant Spencer Spielman, 20, of Greenfield, is currently being held on $250,000 bond at the Hancock County Jail. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 9 in Hancock County Superior Court 1.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or