My name is Clarissa, and I felt inspired to create this petition upon learning of the senseless murders of two firefighters who had arrived at the scene of a fire to in order save homes and lives- only to be caught in an ambush involving an assailant with a military-style assault rifle. In my petition, I am asking the governors of each of our fifty states to no longer allow defendants who have been charged with murder to have the opportunity to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in order to receive a shorter sentence.
On December 24th, I was heartbroken to learn that two volunteer firefighters- Tomasz Kaczowka and Michael Chiapperini- had been shot to death while responding to a fire in Webster, New York. Two other firefighters- Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino- were also shot. An off-duty police officer, John Ritter, was hit with shrapnel while coming to the aid of the firefighters. Also found at the scene were human remains believed to be the killer’s sister, Cheryl Spengler.
Who was this killer who had typed out a note which stated that he wanted to burn down his neighbors’ homes and “do what I like doing best, killing people” before setting a fire for the sole purpose of luring first responders to their deaths? Some mentally disturbed individual without a previous criminal record? No, the assailant, William Spengler, was a convicted felon who had plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter in the 1980 killing of his 92-year-old grandmother. According to newspaper reports at the time of his grandmother’s death, Spengler had first stated that his grandmother had died as a result of having fallen down the stairs. However, it was found that she had been beaten to death with a hammer.
Why was Spengler allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge? If he had been charged and convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the tragedy in Webster could not have occurred. Instead, Spengler was freed after serving only 17 years in prison for the heinous murder.
Please join with me in asking all fifty governors to work with the criminal justice systems in their states to ensure that murderers like Spengler, once convicted, will never again be free to rejoin society and murder another innocent person.