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Diane Louise SPENCER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: August 6, 1983 / September 21, 1987 / September 25, 1990
Date of birth: October 23, 1967
Victims profile: Her children, Joyce A. Donochicke, 6 weeks old / Autumn Dawn Spencer, 15 days old / Aaron Avery Spencer, 6 months old
Method of murder: Suffocation
Location: Pennsylvania/Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in Michigan on March 13, 1992

Woman convicted of killing son faces trial for daughters' death

Beaver County Times

October 29, 1992

Clearfield, Pa. (AP) - A woman sentenced to life in a Michigan prison for killing her infant son will stand trial in Pennsylvania on charges she killed two daughters in incidents originally listed as crib deaths.

If convicted in the Pennsylvania cases, Diane Louise Spencer, 25, of Wayland, Michigan, could face the death penalty.

Spencer lived in Clearfield County in the mid-1980s after running away from home before her 15th birthday.

A daughter, Joyce A. Donochick, died at age six weeks on August 6, 1983. Another daughter, Autumn Dawn Spencer, died at age 15 days on September 21, 1987.

A medical examiner found no specific  cause of death in an autopsy on Autumn and listed the probable cause of death as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. No autopsy was performed after Joyce's death, which also was attributed to SIDS.

In 1990, as Michigan police investigate the death of another Spencer child, Aaron Avery Spencer, age 6 months, she confesses to all three deaths, Michigan State trooper John Palmatier testified Wednesday.

Subsequently, and after an autopsy on Joyce, the Pennsylvania death certificates were chanced to show the cause of death as asphyxiation.

At Spencer's preliminary hearing, defense attorney Chip Bell tried to suppress the confessions and the subsequent changes. He said prosecutors could not prove their case without the woman's statements.

In Pennsylvania murders case, prosecutors must not only produce a body, but they also must establish that a criminal act occurred before a confession can be entered as evidence.

Districy Justice William Daisher ordered Spencer to stand trial. He set arraignment for November 18. Clearfield County's next term of courts begin of January. Bell said he probably would appeal Daisher's decision.

Palmatier said that during a 5 hour conversation with Spencer, the woman said she had killed Joyce with a towel or blanket, Autumn with a blanket and Aaron with a pillow.

The woman also showed how she cradled Joyce and Aaron in her arms while killing them, he said. According to the officer, Spencer said she killed Autumn while the baby fussed in her crib.

Regarding Joyce, "She didn't think the baby cared about her, There was no interaction. She loved the child, but the baby couldn't return it," Palmatier said.

Palmatier quoted Spencer as saying Joyce was sickly, But Dr. George Mosch said Joyce was healthy, other than a neck spasm. One week before her death, Mosch wrote that the baby was "strong, attentive and cooperative."

No autopsy was performed on Joyce at the Donochick family's request.

The pathologist who examined Autumn's body said he could find no reason for the child's death. He said the findings prompted him to list the probable cause as SIDS, not suffocation.

"I can't swear on it, but it's a possibility. There's not much you can find in suffocation, really," said Dr. A. Nabil Saleh, formerly of Philipsburg State General Hospital.

Aaron Spencer died September 25, 1990, in Wayland, Michigan. She was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced on March 13, 1992, to  life in prison. In Pennsylvania, she could became the second woman on death row.

Two women testified that Spencer gave birth to a fourth child, but that child's fate wasn't revealed at the hearing.

Joyce Donochick's grandmother, Joan Donochick, said the four child was offered for adoption in 1984. Diane Spencer's mother-in-law, Linda Spencer, said Diane mentioned another child who died in a traffic accident.

Also, when Joyce died, Diane Spencer referred to Joyce's father, Jimmy Donochick, as her husband, a paramedic testified.


Diane Louise Spencer



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