GREENFIELD — Patricia Dresser was afraid of Spencer Spielman.
In the last text message the Greenfield woman sent before she was killed, she told a loved one she was worried what Spielman — who she believed had broken into her house earlier that day — might do to her.
It was nearly 1 a.m. Oct. 13. She couldn’t sleep. She’d locked all her doors and windows for good measure. She’d tried to change the code on her garage door to something Spielman — a family friend she’d hired to do work around her house — wouldn’t know. But, still, she was scared, she wrote to a friend.
Investigators believe Spielman returned to Dresser’s home and killed her not long after she’d sent that message. The 21-year-old faces charges of murder and robbery, and prosecutors Monday continued working to convince a jury of 12 Hancock County residents that he is guilty as charged.
Using text messages obtained from Dresser’s iPad and Spielman’s phone, prosecutors on Monday — the fifth day of Spielman’s trial — painted a picture for jurors of Dresser’s state of mind in the hours before she died, while offering some insight on Spielman’s actions during that timeframe.
Dresser came home from work around 6:30 p.m. Oct. 12 and found her house in disarray, she told friends and family via text. It looked as though someone had broken in, though nothing appeared to be stolen, she’d said. Boxes that stored designer watches were scattered around the house, and the bottom grill of her refrigerator had been kicked off.
Dresser immediately blamed Spielman, a friend of her youngest son, the messages showed. She texted him directly, accusing him of ransacking the place and warning him not to come around anymore.
“Oh, and I have you on video,” Dresser wrote to Spielman. “Don’t try it again.”
Prosecutors have not presented any video evidence of Spielman in Dresser’s home.
In other messages sent that same evening, she told friends and family Spielman had tried to break in and steal those watches once before. She expressed her frustrations and accused Spielman of being unstable.
People like Spielman “remember stuff that benefits them,” she said at one point, after telling a friend Spielman knew the code to her garage door.
“It’s like he wanted me to know it was him.”
Just before 1 a.m. Oct. 13 — the day investigators say Dresser died — she sent one last text message, admitting she couldn’t sleep because she was scared.
“I’m all locked in,” she wrote. “Just worried.”
Investigators say Spielman returned to Dresser’s home on Morningside Drive after that message was sent and killed his friend’s mother. They said they believe Spielman used the sash of the bathrobe she was wearing to strangle her to death before stealing a television from her home and making off with her car.
A pathologist confirmed during testimony this week that Dresser died from asphyxiation.
About an hour after Dresser’s last text message was sent, Spielman told a friend via Facebook messenger he was coming by to visit, and he’d be driving a blue Ford Taurus — the same car Dresser owned, which was missing from her house when friends found her body late Oct. 13.
Spielman told his friends the vehicle belonged to his mother and bragged about its quality and how fast it can drive, according to messages investigators downloaded from his Facebook account.
Witnesses earlier in the trial said Spielman used Dresser’s car to run errands with a friend over the next few days. He was pulled over in Greenfield driving the car on Oct. 14 and questioned by police.
Officers have testified that Spielman confessed to the act during a three-hour interrogation.
Merlau — whose first witness was a professor who had extensively studied false confessions — has worked to show his client was under duress when he admitted to the slaying.
Monday, Dr. Rebecca Mueller, a psychologist, was the second witness to take the stand for the defense. She met with Spielman in the Hancock County Jail in February at Merlau’s request. She interviewed Spielman, reviewed his medical records and discussed details of the criminal case with him.
Mueller told jurors Spielman had previously been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, ADHD, autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, though none were considered severe. He received treatment throughout his childhood, but he stopped therapy and medication as a teen, after doctors and his parents determined he’d learned to handle his emotions, Mueller said.
Spielman didn’t seem to display any symptoms of his previously diagnosed disorders, Mueller said. However, she did recognize that Spielman might have an “adjustment disorder,” according to her report.
Those who suffer from adjustment disorders have trouble responding to stress in their daily lives, Mueller told jurors.
Often, when diagnosing the disorder, doctors look for an “identifiable stressor” that causes someone to overreact, or react in a way a reasonable person would consider extreme or out of the ordinary, she said.
During questioning, Deputy Prosecutor John Keiffner asked Mueller if she would consider being caught while robbing a house — one of investigators’ theories of the crime — an identifiable stressor, and Mueller agreed it would be. She added that during her conversation with Spielman, the defendant told her “his judgement and insight were impaired at the time of the alleged offense.”
Mueller did not detail how she arrived at that conclusion nor did she discuss what, if anything, else Spielman confided in her regarding the charges he faces, except to say that Spielman denied killing Dresser and expressed anger at police for accusing him.
For Merlau’s turn questioning Mueller, he focused on whether the three-hour police interrogation, which took place just before Spielman’s arrest, would have aggravated Spielman’s medical conditions.
Mueller told jurors a high-stress police interview could agitate someone with Spielman’s background, and might affect their ability to answer questions truthfully if they feel they don’t have adequate time to think through a response.
Proceedings, which are open to the public, reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Hancock County Superior Court 1.