GREENFIELD — He took the witness stand silently, a photograph of her dangling from a lanyard around his neck. He unfolded the letter he’d written, and with a smack that reverberated across the quiet courtroom, slammed the paper down on the ledge in front of him and began to read.
The anger in Mike Kingsley’s voice was palpable as he addressed the man at the defendant’s table, the man a jury last month decided was guilty of murdering and robbing Kingsley’s younger sister, Patricia Dresser of Greenfield.
Kingsley asked the judge to be strict, to send the defendant — 21-year-old Spencer Spielman of Greenfield — to prison for as long as the law would allow. Spielman needs to sit for years and years to think about the evil things he’d done, Kingsley said. He needs time to learn to make good choices, he added.
Minutes later, the judge ordered Spielman to serve a 55-year sentence, the window of time advised by law for those convicted of murder, which carries a 65-year maximum.
Spielman will spend 50 years in an Indiana Department of Correction facility followed by five years on probation. The earliest he could be released is 2054, prosecutors said. He will be 58 years old.
The sentencing hearing Wednesday in Hancock County Superior Court 1 was brief, with only Kingsley speaking on behalf of Dresser’s family before Spielman read a statement aloud to ask for leniency.
Dresser’s friends found her dead inside 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.
Relatives of the victim, who lived alone and worked in advertising in Shelbyville, immediately pointed to Spielman as a suspect, telling investigators the man had broken into Dresser’s home the day before the murder.
Spielman was found driving her stolen car the day after her body was found. He was taken into custody, and during questioning by Greenfield Police Department detectives, he admitted to harming Dresser, telling officers he’d wrapped the sash of the her bathrobe around her neck and pulled it tight.
But over and over again in the courtroom Wednesday, Spielman denied hurting Dresser, a family friend he said had taken him under her wing on more than one occasion.
She’d often helped, he said — gave him money when he needed it, helped him look for jobs and research college, invited him to stay when he had nowhere else to go.
“Why would I bite the hand that fed me?” Spielman said while reading his statement Wednesday. “I know you want justice for what happened, but I’m not Patty’s murderer.”
Spielman’s DNA was found on Dresser’s body: swabs of the victim’s fingertips were taken at her autopsy and later tested at the Indiana State Police Crime Lab.
Police say Spielman used the sash of Dresser’s bathrobe she was wearing to strangle her to death. A pathologist confirmed during the seven-day trial that Dresser died from asphyxiation and told jurors that markings found around Dresser’s neck matched the width of the sash.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors tried to convince jurors that robbery was the motive for the murder; Spielman stole her car and a television from her home, items that were later recovered by police, they say.
Speaking from the witness stand Wednesday, Dresser’s brother said he found Spielman’s greediness despicable.
“You took her life for a car and flippin’ TV,” Kingsley said. “You are a self-centered individual who only cares about what benefits you at the time.”
At one point during his remarks, Kingsley pointed to the photograph hanging around his neck.
It was a picture of a younger Dresser, he told the crowd of onlookers.
And though they all knew her as Patricia, maybe “Patty” to some, he always called her MeMe — a nickname she got as a child because of her eagerness to always be included in games and family outings, Kingsley said.
She was his baby sister. The beloved aunt of his college-aged daughter. The mother to two grown boys.
Remember her, Kingsley urged Spielman. Remember her name.
“I don’t forgive you. Yet.” Kingsley said.