David Spanbauer, Part One: Sex Terrorist

David Frank Spanbauer was born in January 1941. His parents, Frank J Spanbauer and Evelyn Marie Bachtler, had both been born in Oshkosh and lived there all their lives. Frank worked as a machinist for Wisconsin Axle Division.

Frank Spanbauer died March 27, 1956 in Oshkosh, at only 44 years old. Exactly what he died of I do not know, but his obituary says he had been ill for four years. In addition to David, Frank left behind daughters Mary Kay and Judith Ann. Evelyn would later get remarried to a Mr. Haen.

David attended Oshkosh High School, but dropped out his sophomore year (roughly 1957) and began working very sporadically in the construction business. Was his dropping out related to his father’s death? There are some indications he may have tried to join the Navy, but I couldn’t confirm this. On April 24, 1958, he was driving a car with 16-year old Curtis Schultz (1235 Walnut Street) as his passenger. They were involved in an accident at the corner of Bowen and Murdock in Oshkosh, with 50-year old Homer T. Sawls (903 Merritt Avenue). Both cars were badly damaged but the only one injured was Schultz, with a bump on his knee.

January 4, 1960: Spanbauer burglarized a house in Appleton, stealing a .22 pistol. The same day, he committed a home invasion and armed robbery of Mrs. Winfred Knutson in Neenah.

January 12, 1960: Spanbauer broke into a house around 7:00pm and robbed a 12-year old girl on the south side of Appleton while her mother slept in another room. The girl at first thought it was a joke, but soon gave the intruder around $75 she knew her parents had. With a white handkerchief covering his face, he then took her out behind the garage and tried to rape her. Her clothes were partially removed, but Spanbauer fled when he heard a noise. The girl screamed and woke her mother, who called police. A doctor examined the girl and confirmed that an attempted assault took place, but luckily the worst injury seemed to be a bruise on her face.

Later the same evening, he traveled to Green Bay and broke into the home of engineer Alton Lyle Cardinal at 1093 Reed Street (near Green Bay West High School) around 9:30pm. The property was a double lot with a large vegetable garden. Cardinal had an interesting history. In his youth he worked for Ringling Brothers circus. He was a veteran of World War II, and a friend of Bob Bennett, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I’m not sure if Cardinal was native, but he had many friends on the Oneida Reservation. He helped design highway projects and spent time in Arkansas working on flood control. Alton had known his share of tragedy. Of his three children, two died in August 1955 from polio. The third, Peter, was spared and at this time was 7 years old.

Alton was not home, but was out for the evening with his wife Beatrice. In the house, Spanbauer found the Cardinals’ niece, 16-year old Carol Anne, who was babysitting Peter. While she was playing the piano, Spanbauer burst into the room, catching her completely offguard. With his gun pointed at her, Spanbauer overpowered the girl and tied her either to the piano stool or to a bed in the next room (reports vary but the bed seems to be correct). With the gun pointed at her the whole time, Spanbauer had Carol Anne retrieve a knife from the kitchen for him to use on her. He used a chalkline found in a cupboard. She wanted to scream, but feared doing so would put Peter in danger – at this moment, Spanbauer did not know he was in the house.

The Cardinals returned home from their PTA meeting at Lincoln School. At first, Alton waited in the car so he could drive Carol Anne, and Mrs. Beatrice Cardinal went in to fetch her. Entering the house, Carol Anne yelled out to stay back, still instinctively trying to protect others while she was being assaulted. Beatrice told Alton and he burst in to stop the attack. Although it was too late to help Carol Anne, Spanbauer fled and shot at Alton as he left. He was shot in the bottom of his jaw, the bullet going up and lodging in his cheek. Though no major arteries or bones were damaged, the swelling remained for a long time and kept Cardinal from speaking. Police set up a roadblock, but it was not successful. Asking around, police soon discovered a number of people who had witnessed young men trespassing, including one who exposed himself to two teenage girls through a window in Green Bay. None of the reports were ever matched to Spanbauer, and apparently men were often trespassing and exposing themselves – awful to think about, but outside the scope of this story.

Spanbauer later said he saw the roadblock set up moments after he passed through, so he went out of the city limits. From there, he found two hitchhikers, gave them a ride to Kaukauna, and immediately went home to Oshkosh.

The very next night (January 13) after the double rape attempt, Spanbauer broke into the Martin Kutalek house in Wauwatosa. Among other things, he stole a .38 pistol. Now he had two, or could dump the old one to avoid police tracing the bullet.

February 1: Milwaukee burglary at the home of Mrs. Grace E. Fennel. She was home at the time, but screamed and fled out the front door when Spanbauer approached.

In mid-February 1960, while living at 608 Evans Street in Oshkosh (sort of near Menominee Park), 19-year old Spanbauer was caught while Sheboygan police were looking for a suspected prowler. A car belonging to James Horn (915 Z Court) had been ransacked. The cops watched the area until they saw a man enter a “strange” parked car – it was Spanbauer, and he was held for carrying a concealed weapon and petty larceny. A .38 was in his car, and several .38 shells were in his pockets, suggesting he had recently been carrying it. The search and arrest were conducted by officers Clarence Kolb, Donald Schram and Karl Leicht. The .38 traced to the January burglary in Wauwatosa.

Appearing in court almost immediately, Spanbauer pleaded guilty and the judge fined him $25 for the theft and put him on probation for one year for having the gun. He was let go for this, but because of the gun was transferred to Milwaukee County for questioning.

Questioned in Milwaukee by Police Chief Walter Hendricks of Appleton, Spanbauer admitted to the attempted rape of a 12-year old Appleton girl and the rape of a 16-year old babysitter in Green Bay, both on January 12. Hendricks told the press Spanbauer was “an apparent aggravated sex deviate.” When confronted with evidence of the various burglaries, he at first denied things but after a lie detector test “threw his hands up” and confessed everything to the district attorney.

February 24, 1960: Spanbauer agreed to have charges from the various counties (several robberies in Milwaukee, multiple thefts in Appleton and a Neenah break-in) lumped together and a trial to be held in Green Bay. He waived his right to an attorney, his right to a pretrial hearing, and pleaded guilty on all counts. He did say, however, that the shooting of Cardinal was an accident. Judge Donald Gleason bound Spanbauer over for trial and held him on $6,000 bond. He told DA Alexander Grant, “because of the importance of this case, I will give it priority over others on the calendar.” Indeed, the date was set only five days out. (I’m not sure what this did to the things already on the calendar. That could be quite disruptive.)

February 25: It was announced that Patrolman Clarence Kolb would be honored by the National Police Officers Association for his vigilance. A very small arrest turned out to be something much larger.

February 29: Judge Gleason sentenced Spanbauer to 80 years in prison for his eight of his various crimes, with a potential 45 more years depending on the outcome of exams. The newspaper said the court records date to 1904, and this was the strongest punishment in county history – Gleason gave out the maximum on each count. He said his sentence was “not affected by passion or prejudice” but “sound principles of criminal law,” and “let the punishment fit the crime.” Gleason said the community would not tolerate the “vicious nature” of Spanbauer’s “revolting” actions. By that afternoon, Spanbauer was driven to Waupun by Sheriff Artley Skenandore, Undersheriff William Rogers, and Deputy John Oudenhoven to ensure maximum security.

Under Wisconsin’s “Sex Deviate Law” at the time, Spanbauer would go through 60 days of physical, mental and social tests. If found to be a “sex deviate” he could get additional time, and it could affect his chances of parole. During sentencing, in addition to the stiff prison time, Judge Gleason declared that he personally opposed any form of parole and said that doing so would be “attended by great danger.” This warning would prove to be all too accurate.

Alton Cardinal died July 26, 2006 at 93 years old. Survivors at the time included his wife, Beatrice Ferslev Cardinal; son, Peter Cardinal; and niece, Carol Anne (Larson) Grady of Appleton. Beyond the local church, Alton in his later years worked with the Wisconsin Annual Conference and the Wisconsin Council of Churches to help initiate formal ministry programs for migrant workers and Native Americans.

Alton was instrumental in the founding of two strongly ecumenical ministries. A jail ministry emphasizes bringing library books to inmates in the Brown County Jail. Meanwhile, the Seafarers’ Ministry of Green Bay sends chaplains to visit every commercial vessel arriving in the Port of Green Bay and supplies Christmas boxes to late-season ships featuring cookies made by volunteers from churches throughout the area. The Seafarers’ Ministry also sponsored visits by foreign sailors with local families. Economic and political factors later eliminated that service as shippers sought faster turnaround in port and government restricted foreigners from leaving the ships.

Carol Anne married and raised a family. She volunteered at a rape crisis center and pushed for truth-in-sentencing laws in the 1990s. By 2006, she had become a widow and lived near a daughter in Appleton.

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