On January 29, 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer used the .22 rifle she had just received for Christmas to take take aim on Cleveland Elementary in San Diego, California, injuring 8 children and one police officer, and killing 53-year-old Principal Burton Wragg, and 56-year-old head custodian Michael Suchar, leaving 4 children fatherless and a community terrified and confused.

Show Notes

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We Talk of Dreams



Paul Jacobs, Nancy Skelton, The Los Angeles Times. “Girl sniper kills 2, wounds 9 at San Diego school.” January 30, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/384983090/

Paul Jacobs, Nancy Skelton, The Los Angeles Times. “Girl, 16, charged in sniper deaths.” January 30, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/107899003/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer&match=1

The Charlotte Observer. “Bloodstains on the sidewalk and in school children’s dreams.” January 31, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/623551768/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer&match=1

Annie Nakau, The San Francisco Examiner. “Sniper: shy tomboy who liked animals… and guns.” January 30, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/461157616/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer&match=1

Paul Jacobs, Nancy Skelton, The Los Angeles Times. “Sniper suspect lived in a fantasy world.” February 5, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/157352761/

Paul Jacobs, Nancy Skelton, The Los Angeles Times. “Guns, death obsessed sniper suspect.” February 5, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/157356515/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer&match=1

Paul Jacobs, Nancy Skelton, The Los Angeles Times. “Couldn’t anyone stop teen sniper?” February 8, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/628097019/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer&match=1

Ted Vollmer, The Los Angeles Times. “Brenda Spencer loses bid to be tried as a juvenile.” March 8, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/384612347/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20trial&match=1

Norm Clarke, Associated Press. April 23, 1980. Canceled-Concert

UPI. “Hearing Closed.” March 28, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/252414826/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20trial&match=1

Paula Parker, The Los Angeles Times. “Months after fatal sniper attack, scars still linger at school.” June 17, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=22781288&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjM4NzQ2MDM3NSwiaWF0IjoxNjMwMzg3NzM4LCJleHAiOjE2MzA0NzQxMzh9.zW2_G5ctUW4t7GWsa-apCaby2_cVZVNIalRy6WjNGqo

Paula Parker, The Los Angeles Times. “Scars fade slowly.” June 28, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/623557714/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer&match=1

Robert Welkos, The Los Angeles Times. “Poll shows 29% believe girl guilty in sniper attack.” July 6, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/387696554

Rivian Taylor, The Los Angeles Times. “Brenda Spencer trial to be moved to Orange County.” July 20, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=22817958&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjM4ODMxNTA5MiwiaWF0IjoxNjMwMjgwNTE3LCJleHAiOjE2MzAzNjY5MTd9.XDzrLUufppf_lMXNiOjYOaPzf2HZc-zJWQ5i7bmPv-s

David Reyes, The Los Angeles Times. “Brenda Spencer trial set Oct. 1.” July 27, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/388308839/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20trial&match=1

Dorothy Storck, The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Killing from a distance.” January 31, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/174641363/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer&match=1

Associated Press. September 13, 1979. https://www.newspapers.com/image/570204274/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20trial&match=1

Times-Advocate (Escondido, Ca.) “Attorneys angered.” https://www.newspapers.com/image/569825913/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20trial&match=1

Robert Welkos, The Los Angeles Times. “$350,000 awarded victims of sniper.” https://www.newspapers.com/image/385287667/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer&match=1

Associated Press. “Sniper sentenced to 25 years to life.” April 5, 1980. https://www.newspapers.com/image/114472349/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20sentenced&match=1

Associated Press. “San Diego sniper gets prison term.” April 6, 1980. https://www.newspapers.com/image/63197727/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20sentenced&match=1

Tom Gorman, The Los Angeles Times. “”Woman imprisoned for ‘79 school slayings withdraws parole request.” January 21, 1998. https://www.newspapers.com/image/159642285/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20parole&match=1

Ben Fox, Associated Press. “‘79 school shooter seeks parole.” April 16, 2001. https://www.newspapers.com/image/515682894/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20parole&match=1

Sacramento Bee. “Killer denied parole.” April 18, 2001. https://www.newspapers.com/image/629027136/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20parole&match=1

Lance Pugmire, The Los Angeles Times. “San Diego sniper is denied parole.” September 28, 2005. https://www.newspapers.com/image/192884557/?terms=Brenda%20Spencer%20parole&match=1

Photo Credit: Nick Ut, Associated Press. One of the first school shooters was actually a teenage girl

Pauline Repard, The San Diego Union-Tribune. Photo Credit: Jerry Windle, U-T File/San DIego History Museum. January 29, 2019. 40 years ago, Brenda Spencer took lives, changed lives in a mass shooting at a San Diego elementary school

1993: Convicted school shooter Brenda Spencer speaks with San Diego's News 8 - PART 1

1993: Convicted school shooter Brenda Spencer speaks with San Diego's News 8 - PART 2

1993: Convicted school shooter Brenda Spencer speaks with San Diego's News 8 - PART 3

1993: Convicted school shooter Brenda Spencer speaks with San Diego's News 8 - PART 4

The Sinner | Famous Murders Bizarre Motives: Brenda Ann Spencer | USA Network

The First Modern School Shooter Feels Responsible for the Rest

Peter Langman, Ph.D. May 17, 2016. Brenda Spencer: Sorting Out the Contradictions

Brenda Spencer 1993 Parole Hearing .pdf

Brenda Spencer 1994 Parole Hearing .pdf

Brenda Spencer 2001 Parole Hearing .pdf

Brenda Spencer 2005 Parole Hearing .pdf

Brenda Spencer 2009 Parole Hearing .pdf