HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A retired Alabama probation and parole officer said he does not know how Spencer specifically slipped through the cracks, but said that officer should have obviously checked in with Spencer to know where he was after he left his court-mandated rehabilitation program.
Our Taking Action investigation confirmed Jimmy O'Neal Spencer did not tell his state prison parole officer where he was before someone murdered three people in Guntersville, a case Spencer is now charged in.
This week, WHNT News 19 found out Spencer's officer did not know he walked away from his court-mandated halfway house. We keep asking the board what happened, and when Spencer went AWOL, but they have stopped responding.
Glenn Melton worked as a parole officer from 1971 through 1982, left for seven years and re-hired in 1988 before he retired in 2009. He said it is difficult to understand how large an officer's caseload is, and how little time officers can devote to checking on their parolees in a 40 hour week.
Most of it's spent doing investigations for the parole court. But, Melton said during his career, he stopped everything when he could not find one of his parolees.
"I hate to think it, but I actually think the guy just slipped through the cracks and the officer did not report it," Melton explained.
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles confirmed Spencer left the Jimmy Hale Mission on February 13, where he was supposed to stay. They said he should have told his supervising officer he was leaving, but he did not.
Melton said this communication should not be up to the inmate.
"If these people were responsible of all society's laws and rules, they wouldn't have gone to prison in the first place," Melton said.
Melton said he was a state parole officer for more than 30 years. He said, in his experience, the system felt the pressures of prison overcrowding.
"Even before I retired nine years ago, there was a lot of pressure on the parole board to get as many people out as possible," Melton explained.
Spencer was in and out of prison from July 1984 until January 2018. During his prison stint, he tried to escape, and received burglary and inmate-assault convictions.
Melton said he feels these convictions might make people believe he should not have been paroled.
"I'm afraid that's something you would have to ask them," Melton said. "It's a judgement call. I can't sit here and say, 'that was the wrong thing to do,' but I understand that it might look like he should have not been paroled."
Spencer was released from prison in January. The board requires parolees to have a home plan. Spencer went to a halfway house that he left. Police said he had no home nor job otherwise.
Melton added that in dealing with a run-away parolee, he would have told the board and the department of corrections. The ultimate reason is to issue a fugitive warrant for Spencer. That way, Melton said, any brush with law enforcement would give them the right to take him into custody.
Spencer was arrested in both Etowah and Marshall Counties before he became the suspect in the July 13 murders in Guntersville.