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Parole board thought Guntersville murder suspect was unlikely to commit more crimes

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - A man, whose sentences could have kept him in prison for life plus 67 years, is now charged with the murder of three people in Guntersville on July 13.

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles approved to let Jimmy O'Neal Spencer out of prison in November but was released in January, according to records.

People across the state are confused and angry about the board's decision to grant Spencer parole on November 2, 2017.

He was released because he had a low-to-medium risk of re-offending and showed positive institutional conduct, according to the Board Action Sheet for Spencer. However, the Department of Corrections said he was convicted of Second-degree of Assault of An Inmate and escaped prison three times.

The board mandated he go to the L.I.F.E. Tech program in Thomasville upon release. The board said the facility did not have room, so he was paroled to the Jimmie Hale Mission program in Birmingham.

Police said he came to Guntersville in January where he was homeless. They said at some point , Spencer spent time in the neighborhood where the triple murder happened.  Of course, it could be years before a jury decides his fate.

Martha Reliford was one of the three victims in the murder case. Her gruesome death shook Janette Grantham, who knew Reliford well.

"She had a brother that was murdered, and that's when I first met her many years ago when I first worked at the attorney general's office" Grantham said. "Martha Reliford was such a fierce advocate for justice for her brother."

Grantham works for an Alabama nonprofit, VOCAL. They fight to protect victims of violent crimes. She is outraged over the arrest of Spencer in connection to the Guntersville murder case.

"Why was this man released," Grantham questioned. "Why wasn't he considered a violent criminal?"

The pardons and parole board requires a home and job plan in place before a prisoner is released.

"When a person is paroled, they are supposed to have a life plan already set up, they are supposed to have a family plan, a home plan, a place where they are going to go, and where they have a support base," Grantham said. "Undoubtedly that did not happen in this case."