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Who REALLY Killed Betty Jane Mottinger?

Spirko has spent the last few decades on death row with no physical evidence. Who really killed Betty Jane Mottinger? In the 1984 murder of Betty Jane Mottinger an Elgin postmaster, John Spirko was sentenced to death. 

The Crime

It all started around 8:30 am on the morning of August 9, 1982. The Elgin Post Office was robbed of money orders and stamps, and Betty Jane Mottinger, the postmaster on duty was also abducted. 

The Elgin, Ohio is a very rural town. The total population during 1982 was at 50 people max. Everyone who lived in Elgin, Ohio knew everyone because of its small size. 

The United States Postal Inspectors oversaw the case during the afternoon after the crime was committed. The United States Postal Inspectors hurried to set up a task force to help solve this crime at hand. 

There was some physical evidence that was recovered from the crime scene; fingerprints were lifted from the surrounding area and the safe. This gave the investigators a few new hot leads. 

Witness, Opal Seibert 

The local Van Wert County Police alongside the United States Postal Inspectors were able to interview two eyewitnesses a few times. 

One of the main witnesses was known as Opal Seibert, who was a 65-year-old woman who was dressed in heavy rimmed glasses. Seibert stated that she was drinking coffee and sitting on her back porch along with her husband of the morning that the crime took place. 

Seibert also stated that she saw the postmaster, Betty park near her house around 8:20 am, as she typically did every morning. 

Seibert continued that Betty then got out of her vehicle and started to walk across the street, but she had to walk back to her car to grab something. When she walked back across the road again, she unlocked the door of the post office, entered, and locked the post office with her inside as she did every morning. 

Seibert then recalled exactly at 8: 30 am, she saw another man drive to the post office. This man got out of his vehicle and stood there looking around. Seibert went as far as to say, she never seen this person before or let alone recognized him. 

Seibert explained that she watched this unknown man stand between his car and the car door with his arms on his car roof. Seibert told investigators that there were NO other vehicles or people in this area. 

Over the course of the investigations, the United States Postal Inspectors were able to interview Seibert a few times and even had her work with a sketch artist. 

Through her initial description of the suspect, she described a clean-shaven, lean man who stood around 6 foot 4 inches, who had prominent dark eyebrows and dark hair that was combed from front to back. She further stated that he was dressed in a long-sleeved blue shirt with his sleeves rolled up and glasses on his face. 

During other descriptions of the suspect, she varied his hit between 6-foot 4 inches to finally settling on he was around 5 foot 8 inches.

Seibert even went as far as telling investigators that she had the perfect view of everything that was happening in front of the post office. She stated that the only traffic that was around the post office happened at 8:35, which was a semi-truck that came from the north. She stated as soon as the truck passed by the post office, the guy who was standing by his car suddenly drove off at a high-speed heading south beyond the railroad tracks. 

Witness, Mark Lewis

The second eyewitness was Mark Lewis. Mark Lewis was a truck driver that worked for the Elgin Grain Company, which was situated right behind the post office. 

When Lewis returned to the grain elevator during the afternoon hours of August 9th, Lewis found out about Betty missing from earlier that morning. This is when Lewis decided to give a statement. 

Lewis stated that he remembered when he left that morning around 8:20 am for Toledo that he also noticed an unfamiliar man that was standing between the open door and the car with his arms around the roof of the car. 

Lewis said the man was wearing dark glasses and looked like he weighs around 240 pounds, wore a green short sleeve shirt with orange stripes, and a potbelly. He went on to say this man had reddish hair or sandy brown hair. 

Lewis stated that he drove by this unfamiliar man heading north only had a quick second to look at him. Lewis stated that he could not remember if he stopped his vehicle to get cigarettes or not, but he did say he did see the postmaster Betty crossing the street in front of his vehicle that very morning. 

Continued Investigation

You should not that the only similar characteristic of this unfamiliar man that Lewis and Seibert described was that he wore glasses. Both Lewis and Seibert did hypnosis to collect more information on what they saw transpiring that morning of August 9th. 

When the Task Force investigation happened, it was to involve the federal and state law enforcement officers, which held many interviews throughout 38 states. 

It was only 6 weeks after the crime had accord that the skeletal remains of Betty Jane Mottinger was found in a bean field in Hancock County. Mottinger’s body was wrapped in a paint-ridden drop cloth. Mottinger was fully clothed but had been stabbed over 12 times.

It was not until after Mottinger’s body was found when the United States Postal Inspectors upped the manhunt for the killer. 

July 1984 Trial

The state’s eyewitnesses, Lewis and Seibert testified on the stand about everything that was previously stated above, but with two variations. 

Seibert swore up and down and around the man she saw was Delaney Gibson who happened to be clean-shaven at the time. 

While Lewis testified on the stand that he was around 70-percent sure that John Spirko was the person responsible for this senseless murder. 

To make what Seibert said the state presented evidence that Gibson was indeed in Elgin during the morning hours of August 9 of 1982.

From the start of the trial until the end of the trial the stated that Spirko and Gibson were the ones who kidnapped and murdered the postmaster, Betty. 

However, at the crime scene, there was no physical evidence besides the fingerprints. While at the site of where Betty’s body was found, there was no physical evidence that either person was involved in the crime. 

Even with Betty being stabbed many times, there was no trace of her blood on either guys clothing or even a sign of trace evidence. Not to mention that all the fingerprints that were collected at the Post Office did not match either male. 

Before the trial even started Spirko’s defense team filed a total of 26 motions for discovery. Despite doing this the United States Postal Inspectors and the prosecution team denied the defense team ANY access to most of the investigation records. Which only lead Spirko the option to make a defense case for himself. 

At the trial, Spirko tried to present that he couldn’t have committed that crime based on his evidence of what really happened during the morning hours of August 9, 1982. Spirko was over 120 miles away sitting in the office of his parole officer who was in Swanton. 

Spirko’s parole officer even testified that he saw Spirko on the morning of August 9th and that the meeting took anywhere between 45 minutes to over an hour.  He stated that he was accompanied by his sister as well. 

“My sister testified that she was with me at my parole officer’s office, and we were there at 9:30 am. She also said there was a slip in the door from the Swanton Post Office when we returned home, informing her of packages at the post office. The packages were my personal belongings that were mailed from the prison in Eddyville, Kentucky. I went to the post office and picked up both packages myself, I signed a slip acknowledging receipt of the packages, and the post office clerk also signed the slip that indicated the date – August 9, 1982, and time – 2:17 pm. I took the packages to my sister’s house and discovered that my television set was not in either package, so I called the prison and spoke with a mailroom staff person. The phone bill shows that call was made from my sister’s home to the prison the afternoon of August 9th.”