Monday was an emotional day for the families of Colton Lee, Marie Martin and Martha Reliford as they laid eyes on Jimmy Spencer for the first time in court.
Chained and shackled, Spencer appeared in a Marshall County Courtroom for a status hearing in his capital murder case. Spencer is accused of killing 7-year-old Colton Lee and his great-grandmother, Marie Martin, and their neighbor Martha Reliford last summer in Guntersville.
This was Spencer's first court appearance since being charged with capital murder back in July. A judge has ordered he undergo a mental evaluation, but it is not known when that will take place.
Monday's hearing was basically a chance for both prosecutors and the defense to lay out what's next in the case, and what information will be available to the state from the defense. The judge set multiple status hearings on the case in the future.
“It was terrible sitting there. It was worse than anything. It just made chills go over me,” Patsy Humphries-Freeman, Marta Reliford’s sister, said of seeing Spencer at the hearing.
“A day hasn’t gone by that I haven't cried or thought about her. I just feel so sad every day for that little boy. I just can't get him out of my heart and … Miss Martin, too.
"I want justice for all of them.”
The WAAY 31 I-team has been following this case because Spencer was supposed to be serving a life sentence for crimes he committed in the Shoals.
Prison documents we uncovered show he remained a violent man while in prison.
But Spencer was paroled and later arrested for drugs, but never sent back to prison.
That's when police say he killed the three victims in Guntersville.
Because of our investigation, sweeping changes are coming to the parole board in the form of new laws to hold its members accountable.
Janette Grantham, the director of the non-profit group Vocal that advocates for victims, came to Marshall County for Spencer's hearing.
Grantham said because of the flaws WAAY 31 uncovered her group ise working with state leaders to pass legislation to fix problems at the parole board.
"So that we can ensure these three individuals didn't die in vain and something good can come from this tragedy,” Grantham said.
Senate Bill 92 would make it law for the parole board to notify law enforcement any time a person leaves a place they have been paroled to like a halfway house. The attorney general’s legislation would give the governor more power over the parole board and make it illegal to grant early paroles.
The parole bills have made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be voted on within the next couple of weeks.
Spencer will have another status hearing in September. His attorney said they are at least a year, if not longer, away from a possible trial date.