GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — It’s been exactly five months since a triple murder shocked the quiet city of Guntersville. Two scenes, one neighborhood. It was a case that shook every officer working.
Investigators say Marie Martin was looking after her great-grandson, seven-year-old Colton Lee, at her home on Mulberry Street in July when she was strangled and stabbed. Colton was killed by blunt force trauma. Days earlier, investigators say her neighbor, Martha Dell Reliford, had been hit in the head with the back flat part of a hatchet and stabbed.
Shortly after the investigation started, Guntersville police officers arrested Jimmy O’Neal Spencer and charged him with capital murder. Not long after that, a grand jury indicted him on capital murder charges.
Spencer is not from Guntersville, and was homeless at the time of the murders. He spent years in Alabama prisons and was facing a life term. The state paroled Spencer in January and sent him to a Birmingham halfway house, which he later left – something his parole officer didn’t know.
Now, five months later, Spencer is back in prison and investigators are still working the case – which is far from over.
“Certainly, the bulk of the investigation is done. Like I say, an investigation in a case like this is never over. It will go on right on up to trial,” explained Marshall County District Attorney Everette Johnson. He said he isn’t aware of any real tips investigators are following up on. “What the police are in the process of doing, as well as the rest of us, is just maintaining, and analyzing, and organizing the evidence that we already have,” Johnson said. He added investigators will work any new information that becomes available.
Officials are also waiting on continued analysis of forensic evidence and the final autopsies on the victims. “The physical scene, the physical evidence from the initial investigation, makes it clear how these victims died, and we will be waiting the final autopsy reports,” Johnson said. He added the autopsy can reveal details they didn’t know.
In the summer, investigators searched an area along Highway 79 and found some things taken into evidence, but officials didn’t release what those items were but called them articles of value. Investigators also didn’t comment if they’ve found the murder weapon or weapons. A lot of evidence is sent off to forensics to be analyzed and Johnson stressed this case is far from over.
Spencer pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The defense filed a motion for psychiatric evaluation. He’s scheduled to be in court on March 4. The state is seeking the death penalty.