The transcripts reveal a well-spoken man, proud to be staying out of trouble in prison and earning positions of trust and responsibility, even time out of prison with a work crew that did renovation work in places including a century-old chapel. The board members mention Spengler testing high for intelligence and noted he came to prison with no other crimes on his record, had only dabbled in drug use and had a spotty work history, mostly as a house painter.
On the day of the killing, he said, he planned to nail shut a basement door to prevent his grandmother from going down and endangering herself. But he said she attacked him, inadvertently kneed him in the groin, and he hit her with the hammer.
‘‘So why do you think you killed her?’’ Spengler was asked in 1989.
‘‘I still haven’t figured that out. It was matter of just wanting to get out. She was between me and the door,’’ he replied.
‘‘She was just a little, bitty old lady,’’ a board member commented.
‘‘I realize that. That’s why I still can’t explain it,’’ Spengler said.