AP

Alabama jury convicts parolee in 2018 triple killing

Oct 26, 2022, 6:01 PM | Updated: Oct 27, 2022, 6:13 am

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A man who was charged with killing two north Alabama women and a boy months after being paroled from prison was convicted of capital murder in the triple slaying and could be sentenced to death.

Jurors deliberated about a half-hour Wednesday before convicting Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, 57, in the 2018 killings of Martha Reliford, 65; Marie Martin, 74; and 7-year-old Colton Lee, who was Martin’s great-grandson, news outlets reported.

The women were killed in separate robberies that netted about $600, evidence showed, and the boy was killed because he was a witness.

A Marshall County jury on Friday will consider either a sentence of life without parole or death for Spencer, who was paroled about eight months before the slayings after serving 28 years of two life sentences for a variety of convictions including burglary and assault.

Politicians cited Spencer’s case in pushing to make the state’s parole process tougher and the rate of paroles has dropped sharply since then. The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to grant Spencer an early release in August while he was awaiting trial in the killings.

Evidence over four days of trial showed Spencer did well initially after being released from prison but returned to crime after losing a job.

The man went to the home of Reliford, whom he had met through a relative, and hit her in the head with a hatchet, authorities said. Worried the woman wasn’t dead, he cut her throat with a kitchen knife before fleeing with about $600.

Days later, after the money ran out, he went to the home of Martin, who was Reliford’s neighbor, and strangled her with a dog leash before cutting her throat, news outlets reported. He bashed the child’s head with a hammer to prevent the boy from identifying him and left with $13, evidence showed.

Jurors listened to a police recording in which Spencer admitted to the slayings.

While the defense challenge Spencer’s mental competency, a judge ruled he was able to stand trial.

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