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Sterling murder suspect to undergo another mental evaluation

Sterling, murder
Rosangela Spradling

A Sterling woman accused of shooting and killing her husband last May will undergo a competency evaluation, the court ruled Feb. 25.

Rosangela Spradling, 42, is accused of shooting her late husband, Steven Spradling, then a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police officer, twice May 17 in their Sterling home.

According to earlier testimony, the two had argued earlier 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 grabbed his service weapon, fired a test shot in the computer room and then shot him twice. At the time of his death, Spradling's blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit, somewhere in between .20 and .24.

This wasn't the first sign of trouble at the home; a spokesperson for the LCSO said there had been multiple calls to the home since 2003 for domestic issues and problems with neighbors.

In 2013, Spradling underwent a sanity evaluation at the behest of her defense team, composed of public defenders Robert Bruce and Elizabeth Lancaster. She was diagnosed with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, but was determined to have been mentally sound during the commission of the murder.

But now the prosecution, composed of Senior Commonwealth's Assistant Attorney Gigi Lawless and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Angela Vernail, is pursuing a competency hearing to determine whether Spradling is competent to stand trial.

Vernail stated to Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick, who heard the motion, that Spradling has begun talking to herself and inanimate objects, like the television at the jail. In addition, when neighbors Robert and Krystal Menchaca, who have been taking care of Spradlings two children, both less than 10 years old, Spradling has reportedly been anxious and angry.

“Lori Obbie, who has been working with Spradling since May, has said her mental health status has begun to decline,” Vernail told the court.

But Bruce argued that not only is Spradling being treated with both talk-therapy and medication, her behavior is fairly normal, given the circumstances of both the trial and custody dispute, in which her husband's brother is suing for custody of her children.

Additionally, Bruce says she meets the legal definition of sane.

“The standard is whether or not she can understand the legal process and help in her defense,” Bruce said. “A diagnosis of of PTSD lengthens the fight or flight response. She's not delusional. She's an animated Brazilian national that gets angry.”

Kendrick ultimately ruled in favor of the prosecution. “What harm would it do?” he said.

Bruce said that while he felt the hearing was unnecessary, he was confident Spradling would pass a mental evaluation.

The results of the evaluation will be brought to court March 25. Spradling is still set to go to trial May 23.


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