Murder trial set to begin: Man also facing robbery charges

GREENFIELD — Prosecutors will try next week to convince a Hancock County jury a Greenfield man strangled a local woman to death.

Spencer Spielman, 21, 1556 Prairieview Lane, Greenfield, will appear before a jury next week. He faces charges of murder and robbery, accused of killing 52-year-old Patricia Dresser of Greenfield, court documents state.

After coroners ruled Dresser’s death a homicide last fall, her family pointed to Spielman as a suspect: Dresser had hired Spielman to be her handyman and gave him access to her home; she’d also told relatives before she died that Spielman might have broken into her house earlier in the week, relatives told police, according to court documents.

Spielman was arrested days after the slaying when he was found driving Dresser’s stolen car, police said.

Beginning Monday, Spielman will appear in Hancock County Superior Court 1 to hear prosecutors present the evidence investigators have compiled against him. He faces a murder charge in addition to one Level 5 felony count of robbery and one Class A misdemeanor of driving with a suspended license. He is being held in the Hancock County Jail on $250,000 cash bond.

Deputy prosecutors Marie Castetter and John Keiffner will take the lead in presenting the state’s case. Elected prosecutor Brent Eaton has excused himself from the proceeding because he knew the victim, he said.

The trial will begin Monday morning with jury selection and opening remarks. Prosecutors expect the trial to last longer than a week. They plan to rest their case by Thursday afternoon, then the defense will take over Monday morning, Keiffner said.

Testimony will not be heard Friday, officials said.

The state has penned a witness list some 20 names long that contains the names of investigators, relatives of Dresser’s and others, who will be called to the stand throughout the week to testify, making up the bulk of the evidence the state will present, Castetter said.

Friends of Dresser’s found her dead at her home in the Cricket Reel subdivision in Greenfield late on Oct. 13. They’d visited her home that evening to check on her after phone calls throughout the day went unanswered, officials said.

An autopsy confirmed Dresser’s death was a homicide. Investigators say the woman likely died after being strangled with the sash of her bathrobe, according to court records.

Dresser’s friends and family immediately pointed to Spielman as a suspect in the killing, telling police detectives Dresser had previously expressed concerns about his behavior after she’d hired him to do work around her home, court documents state.

Dresser agreed to pay Spielman to do housework because he said he needed money, court documents state. She gave the man the code to her garage door so he could get into the house.

The day before Dresser died, she told relatives she thought Spielman had broken into her house and ransacked the place, court documents state. Police were never notified of the woman’s concerns, officials said.

Spielman was arrested a few days after Dresser’s body was found. He was driving Dresser’s stolen car at the time, records state. When questioned by police about Dresser’s death, he admitted to strangling her, court documents state.

Spielman’s attorney, John Merlau of New Palestine, declined to comment on this story.

The trial begins at 8 a.m. Monday in the Hancock County Courthouse, 9 E. Main St., Greenfield. The proceedings are open to the public.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.