GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- On the eve of the anniversary of the Guntersville triple-murder case that led to reforms in the Alabama parole system, Gov. Kay Ivey picked former Attorney General Charlie Graddick to become the parole board’s director.
Graddick's new job is among several steps the governor, Attorney General Steve Marshall and the Alabama Legislature have taken in the aftermath of the deaths of 7-year-old Colton Lee, his great grandmother Marie Martin and neighbor Martha Reliford
The triple-homicide shocked the quiet community. A recently paroled Alabama inmate, Jimmy O'Neal Spencer, was charged with the murders. The shock grew when an investigation revealed Spencer was serving a life sentence, and his former victims were not notified of his release. Spencer also fled from a halfway house after his release in January 2018, but no search for him was initiated. Then, he was charged with triple-murder last July.
The public outcry on the Spencer case that followed led Ivey and Marshall to push for an overhaul of the parole system and the early release process.
The reforms were approved by the Alabama Legislature this year. Early releases have been suspended for several months and now, Ivey has appointed Graddick to oversee the board.
Graddick, a two-term attorney general, former gubernatorial candidate, and judge in Mobile, said he's honored to take on the new role.
"The governor, attorney general and the public have made it clear that our Board of Pardons and Paroles must carry out their duties to ensure justice for victims and safety for all of our citizens," he said in a news release. "That means that we need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the operation and make necessary improvements to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency ... Serving in this capacity, I hope to leave Alabama a safer place to live and raise a family.”
Ivey said Friday he’s the right person for the job.
"As our state’s top law enforcement official, he was a national leader in advocating for victims’ rights and in prosecuting crimes," she said. "I am proud to have someone of Judge Graddick’s experience and caliber at the helm of this board. Public safety is paramount.”
The families of the victims in the Guntersville murders are still grieving, but their attorney Tommy James said Friday that Graddick’s appointment will help other families.
“While these shocking murders directly led to laws that strengthen the parole system in Alabama, that is little consolation for these families," James said. "They hope that these laws will prevent future tragedies. Please continue to keep these families in your thoughts and prayers, especially during this most difficult time.
“Charlie Graddick will be an excellent Executive Director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. He has served this State as a District Attorney, as the Attorney General and as a Circuit Judge. Governor Ivey made a home run pick in appointing Judge Graddick to this post. He is the perfect choice to implement the much needed changes that are being put in place as a result of the Jimmy Spencer tragedies. I am confident that Judge Graddick will ensure that justice is done on behalf of victims and their families.
“He is the perfect choice to implement the much needed changes that are being put in place as a result of the jimmy spencer tragedies. I am confident that judge graddick will ensure that justice is done on behalf of victims and their families.”
Montgomery-based Victims of Crime and Leniency (VOCAL) also praised Ivey on Friday, citing her "executive leadership and swift and effective action in restoring confidence and trust in the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles by her appointment of Judge Charles Graddick as Director. Legislation was recently passed to revamp the ABPP which had proven to be flawed and dangerous. This legislation gave Governor the authority to appoint the Director of ABPP.
“Judge Graddick brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the ABPP, and is well-known as a ‘Justice Warrior’ to VOCAL and victims of violent crimes,” said VOCAL State Director, Janette Grantham. “He has been an advocate for victims since 1975 when he was elected District Attorney of Mobile County. Judge Graddick established the first statewide Victim’s Assistance Office in Alabama, and as a former Alabama Attorney General Judge Graddick was recognized as a prosecutor who was tough on crime.”
“Victims of Crime and Leniency (VOCAL) applauds Governor Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall for their leadership and commitment to upholding justice for victims as well as peace and security for our families.”