State says it didn’t know Guntersville triple murder suspect left halfway house early

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – The head of Alabama’s parole board says they didn’t know a triple murder suspect left the halfway house he was paroled to after getting out of prison early.

Jimmy O’Neal Spencer had been allowed to leave prison early if he completed the transitional program at a Birmingham halfway house, but he left Feb. 13 and never told his supervising parole officer.

“As with any Parolee or Probationer under supervision with the Board of Pardons and Paroles, his supervising officer is tasked with monitoring his supervision while under supervision,” Eddie Cook, board executive director, explained.

Cook said a parolee must report the change of his or her home plan to the supervising officer. A person is allowed to change his address or program, but he or she must tell the officer in charge of them.

“Spencer failed to do that,” Cook said.

Spencer did not have an address when he came to Guntersville, nor a job. Police said he was sleeping on park benches and occasionally in a hotel room.

As we’ve reported, Spencer did not have any warrants when Guntersville Police arrested and charged him for the July 13 murders of Marie Martin, her 7-year-old great-grandson Colton Lee, and her neighbor Martha Reliford on Mulberry Street.

“Just because a parolee leaves a facility does not automatically mean a warrant is issued,” Cook explained. “Whenever a parolee changes home plans, a warrant is not issued. Parolees leave halfway house and change home plans all the time.”

Spencer was supposed to have a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, but the case was waived to the grand jury.

“If we didn’t feel we had enough evidence to move forward, we would not have presented the case to the grand jury,” Chief Investigator John Young said.

Young is the lead investigator with the Marshall County District Attorney’s Office. He confirmed the defense will receive all evidence the state possesses.