Marshall County DA breaks down charges on Guntersville triple homicide suspect

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. --  -- Jimmy Spencer is in the Marshall County Jail charged with four counts of capital murder on three separate victims, and Marshall County District Attorney Everette Johnson said those charges came about because of the nature of the situation.

Marie Martin, her seven-year-old great-grandson Colton Lee, and her neighbor Martha Reliford are the victims in a triple homicide investigation that started on Friday on Mulberry Street in Guntersville. Police have not released a motive or the cause of death just yet, but did say the victims were killed at different times and called the situation brutal.

Johnson said they know Spencer had been in the neighborhood before and had visited her or another person at the home. That person has no connection to the murder.

Johnson said they are still interviewing people to get all of the information they can, but they don’t suspect anyone else had any involvement.

Jimmy O'Neal Spencer is charged with four counts of capital murder on three separate victims. That includes two counts of capital murder during robbery 1st degree, capital murder when the victim is less than 14 years of age, and capital murder of two or more persons.

"There are 19 or 20 different ways under the code, by statute, that apply to murder cases," explained Marshall County District Attorney Everette Johnson, "If any of those criteria or circumstances are met it makes it a capital murder."

"In this case we had several apply even though there are only three victims."

Colton's age, under 14, is one of them. "There were obviously in that house, two people killed in the same course of conduct, he and Mrs. Martin, that makes it a capital offense," Johnson said, speaking on one of the counts.

Another criteria met was murder during a robbery. Johnson said the warrant alleges that the murder happened during an attempt to take money.

"There were only three victims, but there were four ways that capital murder was perpetrated here. That's what we feel like the evidence will show," Johnson said.

He added they feel comfortable that the evidence will support those charges, but the charges could be changed - either diminished or added to - when the case is presented to a grand jury.

Spencer is currently held without bond in the Marshall County Jail. He's not from Guntersville and he has a criminal past. Police say Spencer was sleeping on park benches and occasionally in hotel rooms around Guntersville, and had not been out of prison long.

A rare situation

"This is not indicative of our city in any manner," said Guntersville Police Chief Jim Peterson, "We have crime like anybody else, but the average citizen here, I firmly believe, thinks this is a great place to live or visit."

Investigators had to look back in their records to remember exactly when the last homicide in the city limits happened. The last one was nearly ten years ago that stemmed from a domestic violence situation that turned deadly.

"It's always been a very, very peaceful town," Johnson said, "Something like this, when it does happen, it's so rare it just kind of shakes people up a little bit I think."