In 1995, a young woman in Douglas County, Washington, was unable to get her mother or fourteen-year-old sister, Amanda, to answer the phone. That was unusual, so she went to check on them. The front door was locked, so she went around to a sliding rear door that was always unlocked. Inside the home, she found their bodies. One was in a bedroom and one in the family room, both smeared in a great deal of blood. She ran to a neighbor, who called for help. The responding police officers observed that the victims of this grotesque double homicide had been sexually mutilated in a variety of ways by someone who seemed more animal than human.
As reported by Seattle-area papers, and described in former detective Vernon Geberth’s book on sex-related homicides, the last time the surviving relative had had contact with her mother, Rita, was at 10:00 P.M. the night before. Rita had a boyfriend, but his time was quickly accounted for. Investigators looked inside and around the house for evidence, and an examination of the bodies later at the morgue narrowed the time of death for both to between 11:00 P.M. and 3:00 A.M.
On Amanda’s wrist, a stopped watch indicated that a struggle had occurred around 11:35. She had been stabbed and bludgeoned in the head, then raped, after which the killer had shoved a baseball bat into her vagina. He’d also eviscerated her, placing skin from her genitals onto her face. She lay on her mother’s bed.
Rita, lying on a couch in the family room, had been stabbed thirty-one times and viciously mutilated, her breasts removed and placed near Amanda. Her genital area was excised and stuffed into her mouth, and in a final indignity, her body was posed for exposure. Both victims clearly had suffered before they’d died.
There was no sign of forced entry, so the investigators assumed that the victims had either known their killer or that he’d watched them long enough to know about the rear door. When detectives checked incident reports for the night, they learned that a man garbed in black named Jack Owen Spillman III had been arrested at 2:00 that morning not far from the crime scene, on the suspicion of burglary. A search of the area turned up a bloody knife, and the blood was matched to one of the victims. They also found a witness who had seen the truck near the crime scene at 11:30.
Although Spillman had been released from custody, since they had nothing on him, they watched him while they looked into his background. They noted a record for rape and burglary, along with attempted rape, and he was suspected in the disappearance of the daughter of a woman he’d been living with; the girl was still missing.
While under surveillance, Spillman tossed out an item that, when retrieved, turned out to be a blood-soaked ski mask. The blood would match one of the victims. There was a blood stain near an opening in this mask, as if he’d put his mouth to a wound. (It was later learned that he’d drank Amanda’s blood.)
More questioning of people in the area turned up reports that Spillman had been seen in the vicinity of Amanda’s activities. He was arrested, and his car and residence were searched. More evidence in the form of blood, hair, and fibers turned up to implicate him, and he had no alibi. Spillman was employed as a butcher, according to news report, which explained why the wounds had been so precise and skillful.
He had stalked this family for months, keeping his eye on Amanda, so once he’d pounced, Rita had become an incidental victim. Even so, Spillman had exerted a great deal of rage on her body as well. To avoid the death sentence, as stated in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Spillman confessed to the double homicide and added a third — the missing girl. When she was exhumed, it appeared that she had been buried in precisely the same position as Spillman had left Amanda on the bed.
Geberth indicates that Spillman’s cellmate told authorities that he had “bragged that his ambition was to be the most famous serial murderer in the country.” He thought of himself as a werewolf, he said, and thus stalked “prey” the way a ravenous beast might do. He’d studied other killers to learn how to avoid being caught, such as shaving his body hair. He’d long fantasized about torturing girls and wanted to cut out the heart of a victim to eat it. He also desired to keep his victims in a cave, and complained that his first one had died too fast as he was torturing her with a knife. After burying her in the woods, he apparently exhumed her body several times for sexual purposes. When recounting his blood-thirsty fantasies, Spillman reportedly would grow quite frenzied.
He pled guilty to three counts of aggravated murder and received life in prison.
Spillman is a modern-day case of someone who identifies with a savage beast. Others like him were described during the nineteenth century as psychiatric cases.