COLUMBIA CITY — Twenty-nine years after William J. Spranger was convicted of shooting Avilla Town Marshal William “Bill” Miner Jr., Spranger was released from the Plainfield Correctional Facility Sunday.
John Barrett, who currently sits on the Whitley County Council and works security at the Whitley County Courthouse, was an investigator for the Indiana State Police at the time of the shooting.
Barrett worked the case with Noble County Prosecutor David Laur, and he interviewed Spranger, who was 18-years-old when he shot Miner.
“It was not an easy interview,” said Barrett. “The enormity of what took place came into play. He never showed any repentance of what had taken place.”
Recalling the events that took place back in 1983, Barrett said the case originated when Miner received a phone call the morning of May 28, 1983, concerning two men, Spranger and his 27-year-old friend, Allen L. Snyder.
The men were stopped south of a viaduct, on what is currently known as Old State Road 3, breaking into cars parked along the road.
Barrett said a woman living nearby spotted the men and called Miner.
Although Miner was not at the police station, he took the call.
“If a call came into the police department, it went to his house,” said Barrett.
When Miner arrived on scene, he ordered Spranger and Snyder to put their hands on the hood of the car while he called for assistance.
Spranger pushed Snyder into Miner and as they fought, Miner’s gun fell out of his holster.
“That’s when William picked up the gun and shot him,” said Barrett.
The bullet went into Miner’s back, killing him. Both Spranger and Snyder fled the scene.
Barrett said several days lapsed where the police were following several different leads, when a teenager from Churubusco called him with information related to a conversation he overheard.
“From that point we started working that information up that ladder,” said Barrett.
Spranger’s brother Ronnie Spranger, later told investigators his brother had admitted to shooting Miner. Snyder also testified against Spranger.
After being found convicted of murdering Miner, Spranger was sentenced to the death penalty.
Barrett said he believes the death penalty should have stood, as he thought the jury’s decision was appropriate.
“At least life in prison,” said Barrett.
However, Spranger’s death sentence was later overturned, leaving him with a new sentence of 60 years in prison.
Due to Spranger’s behavior in prison, the sentence was cut in half and the 47-year-old was released Sunday with restrictions by the Fort Wayne parole district.