Killer Gets 100 Years in Prison
December 15, 2006
Robert Spahalski was sentenced to 100 years in
Some of his victim's families have waited 15 years
Morraine Armstrong was Robert Spahalski's neighbor.
He strangled her on New Year's Eve 1990. Sixteen years later, her
family can finally face the holidays.
Armstrong’s aunt, Carrie Peterson, said, "This New
Year's Eve it will be so much better because we won't have to wonder
who killed her…we already know."
Spahalski also strangled his girlfriend Adrian
Then during a cocaine binge 14 years later he
strangled Vivian Irrizarry, a woman he called his "best friend." Her
family believes the goodness in their daughter sparked an attack of
Days after he killed Irrizary, Spahalski confessed
to crimes that had been unsolved for a decade and a half.
Spahalski also had an intimate relationship with
Charles Grande. The violence of Grand’s death was very different than
the gentle life he had lived.
Today his little sister hangs on to that lesson.
Rose Grande said, "I still believe in non violence…in justice… no
matter how long you have to wait."
When given a chance to speak Spahalski said, “I
would like to say to the families I apologize, I'm very sorry."
Not everyone wanted to hear it.
Moses Armstrong said, "You lose your daughter, 24-years-old,
and it’s very painful. But justice was served and hopefully he'll die
The judge said the sentence of 100 years certainly
amounts to a death sentence for anyone, but Spahalski also suffers
from AIDS and other health problems and it's not likely he’ll live a
Spahalski's attorney advised his client not to
cooperate with the investigation that helps determine sentencing,
which is a hint they may appeal.
Street hustler convicted of killing four
people since 1990
November 21 2006
A street hustler was convicted Monday of
strangling two women and bludgeoning a businessman in a series of
drug-fueled slayings in the early 1990s that went unsolved until he
killed his next-door neighbor a year ago.
Robert Spahalski, 51, walked into police
headquarters last November and said he'd battered and strangled
Vivian Irizarry, 54, a friend who lived in an adjoining apartment,
prosecutor Ken Hyland said in closing arguments Monday. He then
confessed under questioning to three other killings in 1990 and
1991, Hyland said.
A jury took less than 2 1/2 hours to find
Spahalski guilty of all charges _ four counts of second-degree
intentional murder plus an extra count of felony murder while
committing a robbery.
Spahalski, whose twin brother was imprisoned for
murder in 1971, displayed no emotion but sipped water from a plastic
cup and glanced briefly at the jury foreman as the verdict was being
read. He could draw a maximum of 25 years to life in prison on each
count at sentencing on Dec. 12.
"These were very violent crimes ... beating
somebody to death with a hammer, strangling people with ropes and
wires," Hyland said.
"I think Mr. Spahalski should never see the light
of day again," added Hyland, who said he would seek consecutive
sentences on each count _ a maximum of 125 years to life in prison.
The defense maintained during the two-week trial
that Spahalski had been a cocaine addict his entire adult life and
was suffering from "extreme emotional disturbance."
Attorney Joseph Damelio acknowledged that
Spahalski told officers at the police station's front desk that he'd
killed Irizarry a few days earlier and dumped her body in the
basement. But he argued that Spahalski was high on crack cocaine
during all the slayings and couldn't form the intent to kill.
Placing two bags of cocaine on the rail of the
jury box during his summation, Damelio said, "The demon's here, and
it affected his mind."
Spahalski was interrogated for 12 straight hours
without access to medications he takes four times a day for mental
health problems, Damelio added in disputing whether the confession
was voluntary. But the brutality of the crimes and Spahalski's
detailed description of how he committed them showed beyond doubt
that he knew what he was doing, the prosecutor countered.
Police said that after he confessed to three
murders, Spahalski was reluctant to admit to a fourth because he had
it "fixed in his mind" that to do so might get him "labeled as a
serial killer," Hyland said.
But after urging him to heal her family's
heartache, police said Spahalski eventually confessed to strangling
Moraine Armstrong, 24, on New Year's Eve in 1990. Angered when she
demanded money for sex after he had shared $100 worth of cocaine
with her, "I choked her out," he was quoted as telling police.
In each killing, Spahalski's statements matched
witnesses' testimony and physical evidence _ some of it known only
to investigators, police said.
Police said Spahalski admitted strangling his
girlfriend, Adrian Berger, 35, in her apartment in July 1991, and
beating to death Charles Grande, 40, with a hammer three months
Spahalski said he had sex with Grande on three
occasions in return for drug money and killed the landscape company
owner in his bedroom when he shortchanged him. He then stole about
$1,000 in cash from Grande's suburban home and fled in the victim's
car, Hyland said.
Born in Elmira, Spahalski moved here in the 1970s
and was imprisoned four times on felony burglary charges. His
identical twin, Stephen Spahalski, was 16 years old when he stabbed
to death a store owner in Elmira in 1971.
Confession from suspected serial killer will be allowed
September 5, 2006
confessions from a suspected serial killer will be allowed in court.
A judge ruled statements made by Robert Spahalski to Rochester
police last year can be used against him. Prosecutors say Spahalski
admitted to four killings dating back more than a decade when he
turned himself in last November. The defense argued the police were
under instructions from a 1991 letter sent by the public defender's
office to not question Spahalski about any homicides. The judge
ruled Tuesday there was no evidence the officers knew of the past
postpones Spahalski murder trial
June 27, 2006
judge today postponed the murder trial of accused serial killer
Robert Bruce Spahalski so Spahalski's lawyer can decide whether to
offer an insanity defense.
Spahalski, 51, is charged with killing four people in Rochester and
Webster over a 14-year period that ended last fall. His trial for
second-degree murder had been scheduled to begin July 31.
Monroe County Court Judge Patricia D. Marks postponed the trial so
defense lawyer Joseph S. Damelio could have Spahalski evaluated by
mental health experts to determine whether Damelio would offer a
defense that Spahalski should be found not guilty because of a
mental disease or defect.
sides are expected to return to court July 13 so Damelio can report
on the progress of the evaluation.
judge told Damelio and First Assistant District Attorney Kenneth C.
Hyland to prepare for a trial in August or September.
has two decisions pending in the case. She'll have to decide whether
incriminating statements Spahalski allegedly made about the
homicides can be used in his trial. She'll also have to rule whether
Spahalski should receive a separate trial for each homicide.
Spahalski is charged with the December 1990 death of Moraine
Armstrong in Rochester, the July 1991 death of Adrian Berger in
Rochester, the October 1991 death of Charles Grande in Webster, and
the November 2005 death of Vivian Irizarry in Rochester.
June 6, 2006
(Rochester, N.Y.) – A lawyer for accused serial killer Robert
Spahalski asked a judge to throw out four murder confessions he
allegedly gave to police.
Rochester Police said Spahalski walked into their headquarters last
fall and confessed to four killings dating back to 1990.
Spahalski’s lawyer said police should not have questioned him
because in 1991, another lawyer who represented him told police not
to ask him about any homicides.
Spahalski is charged with killing Moraine Armstrong in 1990, Adrian
Berger and Charles Grande in 1991, and Vivian Irizarry in 2005.
Police said Spahalski agreed to be questioned without a lawyer
two-day hearing wrapped up Tuesday. The judge reserved decision.
The trial has been
set for July 31.
Spahalski Appears in Court
accused Rochester serial killer appeared in court Friday morning.
Rochester Police Department wants 14 year old court records
unsealed. Investigators said that those records may relate to
current charges against Robert Spahalski.
Spahalski is accused of killing four people dating back to 1990.
Prosecutors believe a 1992 acquittal on criminal impersonation
charges relates to one of those killings.
RPD has moved to unseal the records and introduce witness testimony
from the previous trial.
"Frankly, they're more important to the defense than they are to us.
Because they'd be able to be used to cross examine some of the same
witnesses that were called back in 1992 will be called at our
hearing on Monday. So, this is also for the benefit of Mr. Spahalski
and his counsel,” said Ken Hyland, prosecutor.
Patricia marks reserved decision on unsealing the records.
Spahalski's scheduled to return to court Monday for a hearing on the
admissibility of statements he made to police.
Grand Jury Indicts Spahalski For Four Murders
January 4, 2006
man Rochester police call a serial killer is facing more murder
On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted Robert Spahalski on
five counts of murder involving four victims dating back 16 years.
Spahalski pleaded not guilty to the 10-count
indictment. He appeared in court shackled until his attorney
objected and the judge ordered the shackles removed.
Spahalski remains in jail and no bail has been set.
Election Day Confession
On Election Day 2005, Spahalski walked into police headquarters and
allegedly told police he had killed four people. He was charged in
two of the cases while police worked to gather evidence in the other
two. That same day Spahalski led police to the body of Vivian
In a signed statement, he said he killed his friend
because he was having hallucinations while on a crack binge.
Spahalski is also charged with killing Charles Grande
of Webster in 1991.
Tuesday’s indictment charges him with two additional
On December 31, 1990 police found Moraine Armstrong
dead in her Lake Avenue apartment dead with an electrical cord
wrapped around her neck. At the time, Spahalski was living across
the street. Until now, the murder remained unsolved.
Spahalski is also charged with killing Adrian Berger
in July 1991. Berger’s body was found inside her Emerson Street
home. Police were never able to determine her cause of death, so the
case was not labeled a homicide.
Although police call Spahalski a serial killer, it
doesn't appear the four cases 16 years apart have a common motive.
Victim's Sister Reacts
Melanie Armstrong, Moraine Armstrong's sister, has mixed feelings
about the indictment. On one hand, she said she is happy that police
have a suspect in her sister's murder.
But, on the other hand, Melanie said, "I was pissed off that it took
15 years. He was able to live life all this time while my sister was
Armstrong said she recently came to suspect Spahalski
in her sister's murder. In his November confession to killing
Charles Grande, Spahalski said he turned the thermostat all the way
up hoping the body would decompose quickly to throw off police.
Melanie said the thermostat was turned all the way
down in Moraine's apartment in an effort to make the homicide
difficult to solve.
Despite Moraine's wrong turn into drug use and
prostitution, her sister says she didn't deserve to die.
"She was the sweetest person, she loved to laugh,"
Before she was killed, Moraine told her family that
she was afraid. Her sister says that came from the dark life she led
and that Moraine wanted to get off drugs.
Police won't say exactly what connects Spahalski to
Armstrong's death other than a confession. The possible motive is
unclear; however, it's believed the two knew each other.
One brother is a killer; one may be a serial killer
December 15, 2005
Rochester, police are trying to determine whether Robert "Bruce"
Spahalski committed at least two killings. Behind the towering walls
of the maximum-security Attica Correctional Facility, Spahalski's
identical twin, Stephen, waits and hopes his own time in prison will
November, the Attica inmate learned that his identical twin might,
like himself, be a killer.
serial killer, in fact.
thought I was the only murderer in the family," said Stephen
Spahalski, remembering the day last month when an Attica corrections
officer showed him a newspaper article stating his identical twin
had confessed to four Rochester-area slayings over nearly 15 years.
Rochester, police are trying to determine whether Robert "Bruce"
Spahalski did commit the killings to which he confessed. He has been
charged in connection with two slayings, and an investigation is
under way to determine whether he could be responsible for those and
other unsolved homicides. In the meantime, he is being held at
Monroe County Jail.
Attica, in Wyoming County, meanwhile, Stephen hopes to soon go free.
While Robert was living the life of a street hustler
in Rochester, operating a male escort service and working as a
prostitute, Stephen was spending almost all of his adult life behind
In 1971, at age 16, Stephen stabbed a 48-year-old
Elmira Heights storeowner to death. He served nearly eight years,
then was released, only to be convicted within a year on charges of
robbery and kidnapping. He was imprisoned again until a 1999
release, but within months was reincarcerated on a parole violation.
Could be free in April
Stephen could be freed in April. He has had a largely
spotless disciplinary record in recent years at Attica, records
show, and he maintains he can live successfully outside the walls.
If released, he plans to return to Elmira where he and his brother
grew up, and where they still have family. In November, the Democrat
and Chronicle wrote to Robert Spahalski in jail, posing questions
about his confession. A man who said he was Spahalski telephoned a
Democrat and Chronicle reporter afterward and said he would answer
questions but only if $100 were placed into his jail account. The
newspaper does not pay for interviews.
Stephen, however, readily agreed to an interview,
which was conducted at the Attica prison on Tuesday — the day after
the Spahalski twins turned 51.
"He'll never see the streets again. ... I assume he's
gone forever, " Stephen said of his brother, whom he calls Bruce.
"He'll never see home again. He's gone."
With their receding hairlines and prominent, angular
cheekbones, the Spahalski brothers still bear a striking resemblance
to each other. Stephen, however, applies makeshift makeup to his
eyes, cheeks and nails. He said he has been doing so for almost a
decade, since he came out, behind prison walls, as a gay man.
His nickname is "Christmas," he said, because the
season is his favorite time of year. And he enjoys small pleasures
within prison, such as recently watching The Wizard of Oz on TV.
"It's part of home, The Wizard of Oz," he said. "It's
just part of everybody's home. That's why they put it on every
When young, he and Robert shared the special and
sometimes mysterious bond of twins, and typically knew where the
other was and what he was doing. Stephen said that when he was
incarcerated as a teen for the killing, Robert often visited him in
But, in recent decades, communication has been
"We're still close, but we don't write too much any
more," Stephen said. "There's only so much to discuss out there."
Despite that separation, Stephen is supportive of his
twin, even in the face of accusations that Robert may be a multiple
If his brother killed, Stephen said, "I don't know
what made him do that."
As teens, Stephen and Robert Spahalski shared not
only features but hobbies and pastimes. Both could be rambunctious
partygoers yet were disciplined enough to be excellent gymnasts,
They were only 8 or 9 when they first began gymnastic
training, Stephen said.
'I was doing good'
"I would have got a (college) scholarship for it," he
said. "I was in the state meets and all that stuff. If it wasn't for
the murder, I'd be all set for life. I was doing good. I had a nice
The "murder" is his slaying of the storeowner, Ronald
State Police initially suspected Robert of the
killing, recalled Ransom P. Reynolds Jr., an Elmira lawyer who
prosecuted the Ripley case as a young assistant district attorney.
"The focus was on Robert Spahalski, not Stephen
Spahalski. They thought that Robert Spahalski was the one that did
it," Reynolds said. "And as they were focusing in on Robert, Stephen
confessed to it. The police always suspected that Robert may have
been there at the time, but they could never prove it."
Stephen Spahalski's confession "came as a surprise"
to investigators, Reynolds said. The investigators learned that
Ripley had been engaging in sexual acts with young men in Elmira.
"Stephen's statement was that Ripley had made
unwanted homosexual advances toward him and came after him in a
homosexual way, and so he killed him, he stabbed him," Reynolds
recalled. The altercation occurred on the steps leading to the
basement of Ripley's shop; his body was found in the building's
Stephen pleaded guilty to manslaughter, avoiding
When asked Tuesday whether the killing may have been
prompted by a sexual advance, Stephen replied: "I don't talk on it.
If I kill someone, I kill them for a reason. That's all I know."
When prodded, however, Stephen did talk about Ripley
— noting that, after the slaying, he was able to communicate with
Ripley, and that he may do so again.
"He's deceased, but I did business afterwards with
him through a computer," Stephen said. "His papers are in order with
me. He don't owe me nothing. He's still going to try to get me,
Ronald Ripley, but I already did business with him.
"I'm real pissed with that man sometimes. He never
saw me hit him from behind. ... He died. I made sure he died. But he
never saw me kill him."
Stephen says he sees reminders of Ripley in the
prison's mundane details. "All the exit signs here are maroon.
That's in his name. ... That's because of the maroon vest he had on
The Spahalskis have been incarcerated in state prison
together several times, Stephen said, and in 1978 in the Auburn
Correctional Facility, one of them tried unsuccessfully to break
Prison officials, however, couldn't figure out which
"They never did and we never told them either,"
Robert was the culprit, Stephen said. In the auto
shop, Robert built a hidden compartment underneath an old Army truck
that was to be sent to a government agency. Robert and another
prisoner then tucked themselves into the compartment.
News accounts show that prison officials were tipped
off to the planned escape, and nabbed one inmate running from the
truck before it left prison grounds.
They were unable to apprehend the other, but they
recognized him as one of the Spahalskis.
"I was not wearing makeup (then)," Stephen said. "At
that time we were in pretty good shape. We looked pretty much the
Both brothers were thrown into solitary confinement
afterward, Stephen said.
Nearly three decades have passed since the attempted
escape — and Stephen has spent most of them in prison. Though he
could leave prison as soon as April, he said in the interview that
corrections officials may decide he did not complete a necessary
Attica inmates are offered courses focusing on
alternatives to violence or aggression management. Corrections
officials said that they can continue to hold an inmate if it's
determined he or she did not take courses needed for rehabilitation.
Stephen Spahalski is scheduled for a review this
month to determine whether he must take additional courses,
corrections officials say.
He could be incarcerated until mid-2007 if he has to
take the course, Stephen said.
Stephen said he'll continue to follow the criminal
case against his brother. And he'll be a supportive sibling, though
he has not heard from Robert since his November arrest.
"Eventually, after he's pretty well done in the
courts, I'll get in touch with him."
Stephen has followed accounts of his brother's arrest
through the news. Robert went into a Rochester police station on
Nov. 8, and, police say, confessed to the slaying of Vivian
Irizarry. He led them to her body in the basement of a city house
where he and a girlfriend had an apartment.
Authorities said Robert also confessed to the 1991
Webster slaying of Charles Grande and to two other killings; police
have not identified those two victims.
Stephen said he's surprised that his brother would
admit to murders.
"It might have weighed on him. I don't know. I'm not
"Maybe he's sorry for killing them," he said. "He
wanted it off his chest.
It's off his chest."
Suspected Serial Killer Once Rochester City Employee
November 22, 2005
Robert Spahalski is charged with two homicides and suspected in two
others. But, 13WHAM found records that show that for one year in the
1980s, his salary was paid for with tax dollars as an employee of
the city of Rochester.
at that time, he already had a lengthy history of committing violent
According to records obtained by 13WHAM news, Robert Bruce Spahalski
was hired by the city of Rochester on August 4, 1980.
worked as a mechanic's helper and later a maintenance trainee at an
operations building on Andrews Street. The job was an entry-level
position, and Spahalski was under close supervision. At the time he
was hired, he had an extensive prison record dating back to age 16
when he stole a car.
months earlier, he was released from Auburn Correctional Facility
where he served time for robbing his former high school in Elmira.
Tarantello, who works in records at Rochester City Hall, said that
at time, they did not access records as they do today.
no one is sure exactly what the policy was 25 years ago, it's likely
city hall did not perform background checks on lower level
employees. However, it is clear that under today's rules, Spahalski
likely would not be hired as checks are performed on all employees,
even temporary workers.
one year, Spahalski was fired for not showing up for work. He
couldn't--according to police records--he was under arrest again.
confessed to stealing a $15,000 coin collection. On the day he was
fired in Rochester, Robert Spahalski already had a new home in
Attica prison serving a 2-to-5 year sentence.
being released from Attica, Spahalski returned to Rochester. Three
years later, he was sent back to prison for attempted burglary. It
was after his parole on that crime that he allegedly committed at
least two murders.
Suspected Serial Killer Once Rochester City Employee
November 21, 2005
(Rochester, NY) -- Robert Spahalski is
charged with two homicides and suspected in two others. But, 13WHAM
found records that show that for one year in the 1980s, his salary
was paid for with tax dollars as an employee of the city of
Even at that time, he already had a lengthy
history of committing violent crimes.
According to records obtained by 13WHAM news,
Robert Bruce Spahalski was hired by the city of Rochester on August
He worked as a mechanic's helper and later a
maintenance trainee at an operations building on Andrews Street. The
job was an entry-level position, and Spahalski was under close
supervision. At the time he was hired, he had an extensive prison
record dating back to age 16 when he stole a car.
Just months earlier, he was released from Auburn
Correctional Facility where he served time for robbing his former
high school in Elmira.
Donna Tarantello, who works in records at
Rochester City Hall, said that at time, they did not access records
as they do today.
While no one is sure exactly what the policy was
25 years ago, it's likely city hall did not perform background
checks on lower level employees. However, it is clear that under
today's rules, Spahalski likely would not be hired as checks are
performed on all employees, even temporary workers.
After one year, Spahalski was fired for not
showing up for work. He couldn't--according to police records--he
was under arrest again.
He confessed to stealing a $15,000 coin
collection. On the day he was fired in Rochester, Robert Spahalski
already had a new home in Attica prison serving a 2-to-5 year
After being released from Attica, Spahalski
returned to Rochester. Three years later, he was sent back to prison
for attempted burglary. It was after his parole on that crime that
he allegedly committed at least two murders.
Suspected serial killer's confession read in court
November 15, 2005
The confession of a suspected serial killer in
Rochester was read aloud in court today.Police say 50-year-old
Robert Spahalski strangled his most recent victim just days before
walking into police headquarters and confessing.
According to today's testimony, Spahalski told police
his most recent victim Vivian Irizarry suddenly appeared to him as a
"demon" when she was slicing open a bag of crack they planned on
Spahalski allegedly strangled Irizarry several hours
after he struck her and came back to find that she was still alive.
Police say he left Irizarry's body in the basement for four days
before coming forward.
Spahalski has also allegedly confessed to killing a
Town of Webster man in 1991, and police continue to probe possible
links to at least two other unsolved murders in the Rochester area.
Spahalski's Statement Read in Court
November 14, 2005
police call a serial killer was in court Monday morning for a
Robert Spahalski said he killed his "very good friend" Vivian
Irizarry because he hallucinated that she was a demon while high on
Spahalski's attorney said his client is
claustrophobic and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and
that is why he hears voices and hallucinates.
In his signed three-page statement read in court,
Spahalski said he and Irizarry were sharing $100 of crack at his
home on November 4.
In the statement he said, "She was cutting the bag
open with a knife and all of the sudden I saw her as a demon. I
Spahalski then described grabbing something from the
kitchen and hitting her hard on the head three times. When he came
down from his drug high, he said he saw her convulsing and
Rochester Police Sergeant Mark Mariano describes
finding the body unclothed, except for a sock. He says a cord or
rope was wrapped tightly around her neck.
Spahalski said he undressed the victim because during
her convulsions she soiled herself and he wanted to wash her
clothes. He said he lifted her body to the bed.
"I couldn't bear to see her suffer," he told police.
"I knew she was mortally wounded."
He said he then "choked her out" with a piece of
twine. He left her body in the basement and went on a weekend long
crack binge. He said later he felt so bad he confessed to police.
Prosecutor Ken Hyland said, "He said [the strangling]
was to put her out of her misery, even taking it at face value
that's still intentional murder. Whether that's actually his state
of mind, we'll never know."
Police said Spahalski also confessed to killing
Charles Grande 14 years ago.
A court hearing in
that case was cancelled.
It is unusual for prosecutors to have a preliminary
hearing of this type. In most cases, it is waived and the case is
sent directly to the grand jury which determines whether there in
enough evidence to file charges.
By bringing witnesses forward, prosecutors have
gained another 45 days to pull together evidence in the two cases
Spahalski also claims to have knowledge of two other
murders. However, he's been assigned a lawyer and that lawyer will
have to be present at any future meetings with police.
About a dozen of Irizarry's family members attended
the hearing including her sister and son. Some of them sobbed
quietly while the details were read.
New York law defines serial killer
November 13, 2005
Acting Rochester Police Chief Cedric Alexander said Wednesday that
police suspect Robert "Bruce" Spahalski of committing serial crimes,
he triggered the inevitable question: Is Spahalski a serial killer?
this point, Spahalski has been convicted of no slayings, leaving
quite a leap of logic and law before he can be declared a member of
the violent class featuring real-life murderers such as Ted Bundy
and Arthur Shawcross and fictional creatures like Dr. Hannibal
the definition of serial killer is far from fixed.
instance, in New York there is a legal definition for prosecution of
someone alleged to be a serial killer: There must be three or more
victims, a very similar method of killing and the crimes must occur
within a specific time frame.
FBI typically considers three murders as the threshold for a serial
Katherine Ramsland, author of a history of serial killers, "The
Human Predator," said a serial killer can be a person who has
committed two murders but "might have had the propensity to go on
and commit more."
"There is no one profile of a serial killer," said Ramsland, an
assistant professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in
Serial killers can be predatory or compulsive, and kill either in
premeditated acts or uncontrolled explosions of rage, she said.
even sometimes have remorse," she said.
often, but sometimes. The ones who express remorse are pretty rare
and the ones who express it to fake people out are pretty common."
Police probe suspect's life
November 13, 2005
Rochester - Sometime late in the day on Tuesday,
Robert Bruce Spahalski scrawled his signature on a four-page
statement in which he confessed to killing Charles Grande of Webster
in the fall of 1991.
Toward the end of that statement, Spahalski
expressed remorse for what he had done.
"I knew that coming forward is the best thing to
do," the statement said. "I settled all of my past business today
and want to put it all behind me."
The question today is, exactly what "past
business" has Spahalski tried to lay to rest.
Spahalski, an Elmira native who is 50, was
charged Wednesday with killing Grande and Vivian Irizarry, a
Rochester woman whom Spahalski told police he killed on Nov. 4. He
made his admissions and directed police to Irizarry's body after he
walked up to the front desk at police headquarters Tuesday morning.
Police say he also has implicated himself in two
other slayings in Rochester in the early 1990s, and they are trying
to determine if he was involved in other cases.
Spahalski, who was sent to jail in Elmira when he
was still 16 and had four stints in state prison, has hustled on
Rochester's streets for several decades.
He told police he has been a prostitute and is
said by people who knew him to be a longtime drug user who is HIV-positive.
Much of his time in Rochester was spent in
neighborhoods where there were dozens of unsolved homicides,
including the slaying of 20 or more women who, like Spahalski, lived
on society's margin.
Several of those slain women lived in or near
buildings where Spahalski dwelled at the time.
Among them were Moraine Armstrong and Victoria
Jobson, who were slain in the early 1990s, and Hortence Greatheart,
who was killed in 2003.
News of Spahalski's background and admissions,
and of the wide net that police are casting, has triggered worried
inquiries from the families of women whose slayings have never been
The mother of 1991 homicide victim Damita Gibson,
for instance, said Thursday that she was contacting police after
recognizing Spahalski as a man who spent time with her daughter
shortly before she disappeared.
Media speculation has begun about the extent of
Spahalski's possible crimes, and the phrase "serial killer" has been
Police are tight-lipped about how they are
proceeding, but privately they indicate they are working diligently
to separate fact from speculation and determine which additional
crimes, if any, can be attributed to Spahalski.
"Just put yourself in the shoes of the police,"
said Michael McGrath, a local crime profiler and forensic
Now, McGrath said, police must examine other
unsolved killings to look for crimes that seem similar to those
slayings that authorities say he has confessed to.
An early life of crime
Robert Spahalski's first appearance in the Star-Gazette
came in July 1971 when he was 16. He had been arrested driving a
Other than a troubled legal history that includes
many scrapes with the law, not much is known about Robert
Spahalski's high school years at Elmira Free Academy.
He is listed with other members of the school's
1973 graduating class, but his senior picture does not appear in the
He is pictured with the school's gymnastics team
in 1970 and 1973 and is shown with the school's track team in 1971.
But no extracurricular activities are listed after his name in the
Many of the police officers who were on the
Elmira police force in the early 1970s, when Spahalski was charged
with a variety of offenses that include, burglary, larceny and arson,
have either retired from the force and left the Elmira area or died.
Former Elmira police chief Richard Wandell, who
still lives in Elmira, recalled that Robert Spahalski was the
initial suspect in the 1974 stabbing death of Ronald Ripley in
However, police later determined that Spahalski's
twin brother, Stephen, committed the murder.
Just before his 17th birthday, Stephen Spahalski
stabbed the store clerk to death. It was the first homicide there in
at least four decades.
Stephen Spahalski was sentenced to prison for
manslaughter in November 1972. He is in Attica Correctional Facility
today on a parole violation.
Stories published in the Star-Gazette in the
early 1970s, when Robert Spahalski was a teen, show other arrests
for arson at a school, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and
He began a two-year prison term for burglary in
August 1973 was he was 18. By age 26, Spahalski had been imprisoned
twice more for burglary in the Southern Tier.
The twins were the subject of an odd case that
arose in 1978, when both were inmates at Auburn Correctional
One of them tried to escape, but prison
authorities were unable, at least initially, to determine which
brother was involved.
Stanley Spahalski, the twins' uncle, said Friday
that he didn't know about Robert Spahalski's arrest this week. In
fact, he had thought one of the twins had died years ago.
Stanley Spahalski, who lives in York, Pa., said
he hadn't talked to them in decades. He said the boys' father,
Bernard, died in Florida about four years ago, and he wasn't sure
where their mother, Anita, was.
Neither Anita Spahalski nor other relatives could
be located for comment.
When and why Robert Spahalski came to Rochester
is not clear. City police say they believe he has lived there, off
and on, since the 1970s.
Spahalski was convicted for his fourth felony
while he lived in the Rochester area. In July 1987, he was sentenced
to two to four years in prison on an attempted burglary rap in
He was paroled, and apparently returned to
Rochester, in February 1989.
Life in the streets
Spahalski, a gaunt 6 foot 3 inches tall with
thinning black hair, was a familiar figure on the streets of the
neighborhoods near Lake and Lyell avenues.
His conspicuous features notwithstanding,
Spahalski lived without attracting a great deal of attention in a
part of the city with one of the highest concentrations of drug use
Spahalski hung out with prostitutes, according to
some who knew him, and claims to have run a male escort service in
the early 1990s.
"I was running the service by myself and had many
customers," he said in his statement to police about the Webster
Spahalski told police he turned tricks himself;
it was a dispute over payment for sex that led to Grande's slaying,
the statement said.
If Spahalski ever held a reputable job in
Rochester, there is no record of it.
There is no record that he ever married, either.
He did have girlfriends, including Christine Gonzalez, who has been
in a relationship with him for 10 years or more.
Gonzalez, who was living with Spahalski in a
Spencer Street apartment at the time of his arrest, has declined
requests for interviews.
Vivian Irizarry, whose unclothed body was found
in the dank, unlighted basement at the Spencer Street house on
Tuesday, knew Gonzalez and Spahalski well.
Carlos Rodriguez, 18, the youngest of Irizarry's
three sons, said he saw Spahalski over the years when he dropped his
mother off at Spahalski's apartment building.
He said Spahalski, who was known by his middle
name, Bruce, told him he was HIV-positive. One other acquaintance
said he had heard the same thing.
"He was a nothing," Rodriguez said of Spahalski.
"All he did was do drugs."
Several other people who knew him, or recognized
his face from photographs in the news, said last week that he was
known to use crack cocaine.
Kassem Saleh, who owns a grocery store on Lyell
Avenue near Spencer Street, said he saw Spahalski buy crack from
young men who loiter on Lyell Avenue.
Several people who knew him said Spahalski was
enrolled in some sort of day treatment program. His landlord, Kevin
Turner, said Spahalski's rent was paid by a nonprofit agency that
provides treatment for drug addiction and mental health problems.
Case Of Suspected Serial Killer Yields Links To Other
November 10, 2005
police are right, Rochester may have its third known serial killer
in custody. Authorities say Robert Spahalski has confessed to two
homicides and was involved in at least two others. He may have links
to four unsolved cases.
six years, there have been more than 30 unsolved killings in our
area. Between the late 1980s and early 1990s someone was preying on
woman with street lifestyles.
1991, Arthur Shawcross was convicted in 11 of the deaths. Police
were also watching a man named John White whom they believe may have
committed as many as five murders.
1994, White said he didn't do it, but admitted he was a suspect. He
later died of a heart attack and was never charged.
the time, police admitted there could be a third serial killer at
work. Retired homicide investigators confirmed that shortly after
his release from prison in 1989 Robert Spahalski was identified as a
"person of interest." He was running a male escort business out of
his Lake Avenue apartment.
week, Spahalsky confessed to killing Charles Grande in 1991. Around
that same time, two women with records for prostitution turned up
missing. One of the women, Victoria Jobson, 30, lived in the same
apartment complex as Spahalski.
other, Moraine Armstrong, 24, lived right across the street. She was
found in her apartment unclothed, strangled with an electrical cord.
Between the times the two women's bodies were discovered, several
other women living in the area disappeared.
1991, two more bodies were discovered, two months apart. The bodies
were abandoned on or near railroad tracks off Ferano Street.
Police will not say if Spahalski is a suspect in the cases of
Cassandra Carlton, 26, or Katrina Myers, 25. But the cases have
something in common with his known victims: both women were found
unclothed and strangled, as was Vivian Irazarry, 51.
Tuesday, Spahalski confessed to killing Irazarry, and then told them
where to find the body. Spahalski was under surveillance for a time,
but there was confusion because he has a twin brother who has also
been in and out of prison for violent crimes.
Allegedly, Spahalski has confessed to two more homicides.
spokesman for the Rochester Police Department could not say whether
any of the cases mentioned in this story are among them.
Police are working to corroborate his claims. They can't simply take
his word, and must build evidence for a trial. With murder cases
over ten years old, that takes some time.
Rochester and Webster Police are Investigating a
Possible Serial Killer
November 9, 2005
Police say the man that turned himself in for two
murders may be linked to two other city homicides.
Police say 50-year-old Robert Spahalski confessed to
two murders, but that could just be the beginning.
"Someone who may have committed a number of serial
crimes in the community," said Acting Police Chief Cedric Alexander
of the Rochester Police Department.
Police in Rochester and Webster are on alert, after
the arrest of 50-year-old Robert Spahalski. It all started Tuesday,
when police say the 50-year-old walked into the Public Safety
Building and confessed to killing a woman.
"He stated that he had killed a woman and her body
was in the basement of 202 Spencer Street."
Police searched the house on Spencer Street and found
the body of Vivian Irrizary unclothed and in the basement. Police
say Spahalski beat the victim over the head and strangled her.
But, there's much more to this story.
"This is a very profound ongoing investigation."
Spahalski also made a written confession to the 1991
murder of 40-year-old Charles Grande.
Spahalski says he was a male escort back then. And
in that police statement,
Spahalski confessed he beat Grande in the head with a hammer three
or four times because Grande refused to pay Spahalski for sex.
Grande's family members say the arrest brings
closure, and they're not surprised Spahalski is now being labeled an
"alleged serial killer"
"I'm not surprised. We've known of him for 14 years,
and I'm just not surprised," said Rose Van Dusen, Charles Grande's
Rochester police are now investigating whether
Spahalski was involved in two other city homicides. Though they
won't say which ones, so far Spahalski's only charged with the
murder on Spencer Street and the 1991 murder in Webster.
Webster police say Spahalski was considered a suspect
from the beginning. Webster Police had re-opened the case and were
expecting to get an indictment against Spahalski, even before the
Spahalski was arraigned in Webster Court and
Rochester Court on second-degree murder charges.
held without bond.