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    Spradling defense requests funds for witnesses

    Sterling, murder
    Rosangela Spradling

    The defense in the case against a Sterling woman who allegedly killed her husband have slightly tipped their hand.

    Robert Bruce and Elizabeth Lancaster, public defenders representing Rosangela Spradling, petitioned Loudoun County Circuit Court for funds to bring in experts in trauma and neurology.

    “The current evaluators agree she needs a full psychiatric or medical evaluation,” Bruce said. Spradling has been regularly evaluated by mental health services after being ruled incompetent to stand trial March 26. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorder, according to Lisa Doll with Loudoun County Mental Health Services.

    Spradling, now 43, is accused of killing her husband, Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority police officer Steven Spradling May 17, 2013, in their Sterling home.

    According to earlier testimony, the two had argued that evening, with the confrontation becoming physical when a drunk Steven Spradling choked his wife and threw her to the ground. When her husband returned to drinking, she sent their two children, both under 10, to their bedrooms, then grabbed her husband's service weapon. She fired a test shot in the computer room before shooting him twice.

    At the time of his death, Steven Spradling's blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit, somewhere between .20 and .24. Prior to the incident, Loudoun County Sheriff's Office deputies had been called several times since 2003 for domestic issues.

    It's this background that defense attorneys hope to use to their advantage in court.

    Bruce cited a non-violent background for Spradling in the decade she was married to her husband, to include no criminal record or complaints from neighbors. Spradling's outburst, defense contends, is indicative of her mental state after years of abuse, prompting her to “succumb to victimization.”

    “We want to show the court that mental health is clearly a factor,” Bruce told the court.

    Because Doll lacks a background in neurology and psychiatry, specializing instead in psychology, the defense argued she is unable to be an expert witness. Additionally, Bruce noted, “It's never a bad idea to have a second opinion.”

    Prosecution opposed the request.

    “There's no guarantee that any further evaluation will yield anything,” Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Angela Vernail argued.

    Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick continued the motion until June 13, when the proffers of evidence should be submitted by both sides.

    The trial, originally scheduled to begin May 19, is not slated to start until Nov. 17 in the Loudoun County Circuit Court. Spradling is currently considered incompetent to stand trial and is being restored to competency.


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