This 16-Year-Old Girl’s Shocking Crime Was a Turning Point in American History

Brenda Ann Spencer was just your typical 16-year-old girl who loved playing sports and gushing over cute animals. But that all changed in 1972, when her parents split up and she was sent to live with her emotionally troubled father in San Carlos, California.

She soon became withdrawn and weird, with kids in her neighborhood often gossiping behind her back about her truancy, drug use, and interest in firearms. Just like her dad, Brenda was a skilled sharpshooter. As a gift for Christmas one year, he even bought her a .22 rifle and 400 rounds of ammunition.

It was the weapon that would be responsible for putting her behind bars.

On Jan. 29, 1979, the freckle-faced, red headed teen went on a shooting rampage, firing rounds off into a schoolyard from her home.

For about 15 minutes, she unleashed hell onto Cleveland elementary from a vantage point, leaving eight children and a police officer critically wounded, and the principal and a custodian dead.

When police identified where the sniper was located, a local reporter went with his intuition and called the girl’s home. When she answered, he asked her if she knew where the gunshots were coming from. That’s when she gave her own address. Startled, the reporter then asked her if she knew she was giving out her home’s address, and she said, “Yeah, who do you think’s doing the shooting?”

But why would she want to commit such a shocking crime?

“I don’t like Mondays,” she confessed over the phone. “This livens up the day.”

Interestingly enough, just days before she opened gunfire on the school, she bragged that she was going to find a way to get on television.

Her crime was a turning point in American history, as it was the first school shooting incident to take place.


Before surrendering and dropping her weapon, she had a six-hour standoff with police.

Though her case was never brought before a jury, Brenda plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life.

About 14 years into her sentence, she tried telling an interviewer that during the rampage she was high on marijuana, whiskey and angel dust, which caused her to hallucinate, but toxicology reports claimed she was clean.

“With every school shooting, I feel I’m partially responsible,” Brenda Ann Spencer told the parole board back in 2001. “What if they got the idea from what I did?”

She was previously denied parole in 1993, 2001, 2005, and 2009. She won’t be eligible again until 2019.

Images: AP