The Alabama House of Representatives passed a parole reform bill last week. Attorney General Steve Marshall, the former Marshall County District Attorney, issued this press release about how pleased he was with the bill and he cited the case of Jimmy O'Neil Spencer, the accused in a triple homicide case that took place in Guntersville last summer.
The Attorney General's office sent out this story:
Attorney General Steve Marshall hailed the passage of legislation by the Alabama House of Representatives to reform the badly broken Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. House Bill 380, sponsored by Representative Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, was passed by a vote of 73 to 27.
“For nearly a year, the people have been stunned by news stories of inmates, who were convicted of violent crimes, being released from prison after only serving a fraction of their just punishment behind bars. In one case, Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, a violent offender sentenced to life imprisonment, was released back into the public after the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles made the unconscionable decision to grant him parole. Months later, Spencer brutally murdered two women and a seven-year-old boy in their homes. This tragic failure of our justice system should have never happened—and cannot ever be allowed to happen again.
“After Governor Ivey and I asked the Board of Pardons and Paroles to take corrective action, it became clear that needed changes to Board’s procedures could only take place through legislative action. It is telling that the Board has so far not only refused to take full responsibility for its failures, but has stubbornly refused to accept needed structural reforms. The Board has even gone so far as to lobby against legislation to make the Board more accountable to our elected leaders and the public.
“I am pleased today that the Alabama House has heeded the call of thousands of Alabama crime victims in passing House Bill 380 to fix the badly broken Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, including giving the Governor authority to appoint a Director of Pardons and Paroles and establish their responsibilities.
“In particular, I want to thank Representative Connie Rowe for her commitment to correcting this extremely important public-safety problem. The legislation has been the subject of vigorous and lengthy debate, and I appreciate Speaker Mac McCutcheon’s dedication to positioning it for final passage. I look forward to similar efforts in the Alabama Senate in the days to come.”
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Jimmy O'Neil Spencer, 52, is accused of capital murder in the deaths of 74-year-old Marie Kitchens Martin and her 7-year-old grandson Colton Lee and Martin's across-the-street neighbor, Martha Reliford, 65. The deaths were discovered on Friday, July 13, 2018, on Mulberry Street behind Burger King.
Guntersville Police and the District Attorney's office worked the case around the clock and made the arrest of Spencer within about 72 hours. Chief Jim Peterson said at the time that Spencer was originally from Franklin County but had been in the Guntersville area about 6 months, sleeping on park benches and occasionally in a motel room.
DA's investigator John Young said the 3 murders were "not indictive of Guntersville” and said everyone has a hard time remembering the last time Guntersville Police worked a single murder case. The deaths had put the city on edge with people wondering just what had happened and showing concern that a killer was still on the loose.
In the wake of the killings, Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said Spencer was a career criminal and should never have been paroled.
Following the murders, Spencer's parole was revoked and he was returned to prison.
Spencer has been back to Marshall County a few times for "status hearings," with another such hearing scheduled in a few months.