Guntersville murder suspect deemed competent, trial date set

Northeast Alabama

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – A man accused in the capital murders of three people in Guntersville made an appearance in court Tuesday morning.

Jimmy O’Neal Spencer was charged with brutally killing 7-year-old Colton Lee, his great-grandmother Marie Martin, and her neighbor Martha Reliford in July 2018.

Police say Lee was killed by blunt force trauma and Martin was strangled and stabbed.

Authorities added that days before that, Reliford was attacked with the blunt side of a hatchet and also stabbed.

Spencer is charged with seven counts of capital murder in the case and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

One of the biggest questions at Spencer’s status hearing Tuesday was: Is Spencer competent to stand trial?

During the hearing, it was revealed Spencer was evaluated by the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

During the evaluation, it was determined that he was not suffering from any symptoms of mental disease or defect at the time of the murders.

Judge Tim Riley ruled he is competent to stand trial and help in his own defense.

Three of Reliford’s sisters, including Dorothy Hayes, were in the crowd Tuesday morning.

“(It’s) the living hell every day. We have to suffer every day knowing what she went through,” said Hayes through tears.

She tells News 19 her sister was battling cancer and had limited vision at the time of her murder.

Hayes approached Judge Riley during the hearing regarding concerns of others possibly being involved in the crime.

“We know that Jimmy Spencer wasn’t the only one that killed her. We know that there were three more in that house and they lived in her house,” she added.

Marshall County District Attorney Everette Johnson says there was a thorough investigation involving numerous law enforcement agencies.

“We don’t anticipate any other charges against anybody for these murders,” said Johnson.

Johnson tells News 19 they want the same thing for victims’ families: swift justice.

“I hope they kill him. I hope they kill him. I hope they kill him. I’d love to see him plugged up dead,” said Hayes.

She believes justice could be swifter.

“They should have done had the trial. They have other people’s trial. Huntsville gets theirs over with. They just had three people killed last year and they done had their trial. Why are they making us suffer? We’re suffering. We want justice. Martha deserves justice,” exclaimed Hayes.

The court will summon 450 jurors, but only expects only a fraction of those will show up.

Judge Riley will then break down that jury pool into groups of 12 or 15 for individual questioning to see if they are fit to serve.

“They may have something come up that they think entitles them to an excuse. Judges are tough for excusing people for capital cases like this, but when we get right down to it, that number won’t be too many because of the response rate we’ve had for our jury summons since we’ve started back,” said Hayes.

Spencer’s trial is set for January 10, 2022.

It is expected to take 2 to 3 weeks due to the large number of witnesses that will be called to testify.

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