Timothy Spytma, 54, has been in prison for the last 40 years after being convicted of the brutal murder of Phyllis Doctor. Though he was originally sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole, he is set to be released from a Michigan state penitentiary on July 18.
Spytma murdered Doctor during a break-in in 1974. Spytma and his accomplice, Michael Saxton, broke into the woman’s house while she was at work in hopes of stealing some valuables. But when Doctor came home early, things took a disturbing turn for the worse.
Spytma repeatedly hit Doctor on the head when she entered her home. After knocking her unconscious, the two men took her to a bed room and brutally raped her. After the rape, the men smashed in Doctor’s head with a baseball bat and bottle. Spytma and Saxton then wrote on her naked body and slashed her wrists before stealing thousands of dollars in goods from the house.
Doctor’s son found his mother’s disfigured body when he came home from school later that day. He reported the murder to police, and Spytma and Saxton were taken into custody soon after.
Both men were originally convicted of first-degree murder and burglary. When combined, these offenses are punishable by life in prison without parole. But a change to Michigan law in 1982 drastically reduced the men’s sentences. The state ruled that a burglary could only occur at night. Accordingly, the men’s burglary charges were dropped and their murder charges were changed from first to second degree. Saxton was re-sentenced to 20-40 years in prison, while Spytma was handed another life in prison term but with possibility for parole.
Saxton was released in 1986 after just 12 years behind bars due to “good time credit” he accumulated.
Spytma applied for parole every five years since 1988, but was denied each time. That all changed on May 1 of this year when a circuit judge granted his request. Now, at age 54, Spytma will walk free. He will begin his four year parole sentence on July 18.
The presiding judge said granting Spytma parole was “among the most difficult decisions I have ever been asked to make as a circuit judge.”