GREENFIELD — The attorney for a man accused of murder said his client could have a mental disability that prevents him from fully understanding the case against him, in which case the confession he gave police should be tossed, court documents show.
New Palestine attorney John Merlau has asked that his client, Spencer Spielman, who faces charges of murder and robbery in the death of 52-year-old Patty Dresser of Greenfield, be evaluated by psychologists before the case goes to trial, court records state.
Depending on the doctors’ findings, Merlau likely will challenge whether a confession Spielman reportedly made to police should be presented during the defendant’s trial, court records state.
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Friends of Dresser’s found her body inside her home in the 1100 block of Morningside Drive in Greenfield’s Cricket Reel subdivision in October. Her death was ruled a homicide after pathologists determined she died by asphyxiation, court documents state.
Investigators believe the sash the bathrobe Dresser was wearing was used to strangle her, according to court documents.
Dresser’s loved ones immediately pointed to Spielman, telling police Dresser suspected the 20-year-old Greenfield man — whom she had recently hired to do odd jobs — broke in and ransacked her home a few days before her death, according to court documents.
When detectives questioned Spielman, he first denied being involved in Dresser’s death but eventually admitted to killing her, police said.
Now, Spielman’s attorney wants that confession kept from the evidence a jury would hear.
In his motion to the court, Merlau stated he “has reason to believe that (the) defendant may be suffering from a mental defect that impairs his ability to understand the current proceedings and fully assist in the preparation of his defense.”
Merlau goes on to say that, depending on the findings of the evaluation, he plans to craft a defense that will challenge the admissibility the reported confession “as being false and therefore involuntary,” court records state.
Hancock Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow has appointed two doctors to speak with Spielman and determine whether he is able to understand the case, records show.
Spielman faces one count of murder in addition to a Level 5 felony count of robbery and a Class A misdemeanor of driving with a suspended license.
Murder is punishable by up to 65 years in prison; a Level 5 felony carries a maximum penalty of six years; and a Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of one year.
Spielman remains in the Hancock County Jail on $250,000 cash bond, records show. His trial is scheduled for April 17, records show.
Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton declined to comment on Merlau’s request. Merlau declined to comment, as well.