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Guntersville triple murder suspect arrested in Etowah County one month before crimes

ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. - Sardis City Police charged Guntersville Triple Murder Suspect Jimmy O'Neal Spencer after they said he took checks from Guntersville First Baptist Church, stole from 1st Super Store Beverages on Highway 431 and led police on a foot chase.

During an interview Tuesday, the arresting officer said a background check after the arrest showed nothing.

Chief James Harp and Officer Keith Beaird protect the small town of Sardis. On Thursday, June 14, Beaird went to the ABC store on a theft call. That is where they encountered Spencer who would be charged with triple murder one month later.

Officers said Spencer tried to use stolen checks at the store. They said those belonged to the church.

"I think they was shoplifting some alcohol because it's a liquor store," Chief Harp said.

Spencer tried to run, but didn't get far.

"I went and jumped off this little embankment and got a hold of him, and we wrestled around in the briers," Beaird recalled.

Officer Beaird arrested Spencer an charged him with possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting arrest and attempting to elude a police officer. A records check showed no warrants or other problems with Spencer's background. Nor, that he'd walked away from a halfway house before completing his prison sentence.

The document does show he was on parole.

"The sheriff's office always checks to make sure if anybody's got holds on them or warrants from other counties or other cities, and if they do, they hold them for that city," Chief Harp explained. "There was no hold."

This is the latest in a series of confusing details about Spencer's release from prison. Now, that includes charges in Etowah County, where Spencer was allowed to walk free.

"The judge released him, gave him a sentence and I think suspended it with an opportunity to make payment on his charges and he was released," Chief Harp said.

Chief Harp said the July triple murder arrest has weighed on his officers.

"I have one officer who said I wished I could have done more," Chief Harp said. "If I could have done more, maybe this family would still be alive. That bothers him. They done all they could do, and I'm proud of them."

Chief Harp said they returned the checks to Guntersville First Baptist. It is up to the church to decide if they want to pursue charges.