STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Alabama to pay $1 million to families of Jimmy Spencer murder case victims

The families allege that the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles wrongfully paroled and failed to supervise Spencer, resulting in the deaths of Marie Martin, Colton Lee and Martha Reliford.

Posted: May 24, 2019 9:42 AM
Updated: May 29, 2019 10:51 AM

The office of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued this press release Friday:

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced that the State of Alabama will pay the maximum damages that may be awarded under state law — $1 million — to the families of Jimmy O’Neal Spencer’s three alleged murder victims.

Jimmy Spencer

The families allege that the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles wrongfully paroled and failed to supervise Spencer, resulting in the deaths of Marie Martin, Colton Lee and Martha Reliford.

Attorney General Marshall recused himself and was not a part of the settlement negotiations, having previously known two of the victims.

In another press release, Birmingham attorney Tommy James, who represents the families of Lee, Martin and Reliford, said the settlement was agreed to prior to lawsuits being filed.

“I can confirm that my clients and the State have entered into a settlement. As stated in the Attorney General’s press release, the State has agreed to pay the maximum amount available under current law,” James said. “It is a shame that the law in Alabama only allows this amount for these families after what happened to their loved ones. The law needs to be changed so that victims are better protected.

“Now that this settlement has been reached, the families of these innocent victims can focus on the criminal case against Jimmy O’Neal Spencer. They are praying for swift and severe justice,” James said.

James said that his clients are still struggling with the loss of their loved ones.

“It hasn’t even been a year since these senseless murders took place,” James said. “My clients are still devastated over their loss. They are extremely grateful for the tremendous amount of support that they have received from citizens throughout the State and ask for continued thoughts and prayers.”

Marshall’s press release goes on to say:

Prior to his release and subsequent murder spree, Spencer had lived a life of crime stretching across three decades, beginning in 1984 at the age of 19. Spencer was a career criminal convicted and imprisoned for numerous serious property and violent crimes, as well as for numerous disciplinary infractions in prison and for several successful escapes from prison. On two separate occasions, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. In one case, Spencer attempted to burglarize an occupied home and, refusing to retreat, had to be shot by the homeowner.

Despite all of this, Spencer was granted parole on November 2, 2017. Spencer was released to a homeless shelter in Birmingham where he was supposed to remain for six months; yet, after only three weeks, he left. Spencer traveled to Guntersville, Alabama, where he had several run-ins with law enforcement and was charged for multiple violations of the law, including: traffic offenses, possession of drug paraphernalia, attempting to elude police, resisting arrest, and illegal possession of a firearm. Nonetheless, his parole was not revoked.

Less than six months after being released, in July of 2018, Spencer allegedly murdered Martha Reliford through blunt-force trauma to her head. Ms. Reliford’s body was discovered only after the bodies of Marie Martin and her seven-year-old grandson, Colton Lee, were found in a nearby home. They also had been brutally murdered.

Speaking after the settlement was finalized, Attorney General Marshall said, “Marie Martin, Colton Lee and Martha Reliford died horrifically and senselessly at the hands of a monster—Jimmy O’Neal Spencer.”

Marshall continued, “Ms. Reliford and Mrs. Martin, whom I knew personally, have been on my mind since July. Every time I think of what they suffered through, I get angry. I am angry, certainly at Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, but I am also angry that a process designed to protect the public from deviant criminals like Spencer utterly failed them, as well as little Colton. Sadly, we know that these victims aren’t the only ones that have been failed by our broken system of pardons and paroles, and that is why I continue to advocate for much-needed legislative reforms.”

Later Friday, Lyn Head, chairman of Alabama Board of Pardons & Paroles, issued this statement:

"Our hearts and prayers remain with the families and friends of Mrs. Reliford, Mrs. Martin, and Colton Lee. We entered a confidentiality agreement with the representatives of their families, and we intend to respect it, and we understand that they do as well. We are thankful to have been able to resolve this matter without the need for litigation and hope that this resolution can somehow lead to healing. In addition, our agency is working diligently to improve in all of the areas of concern that our governor pointed out in her Executive Order in October. Specific details of these efforts have been outlined in corrective action plans and monthly progress reports to Governor Ivey, which have been made available to the media."

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 40°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 42°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 40°
Decatur
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 43°
Fort Payne
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 39°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 422598

Reported Deaths: 6120
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62039921
Mobile30225548
Madison27052186
Tuscaloosa20728267
Montgomery18978305
Shelby18504114
Baldwin16251182
Lee12465101
Morgan12233113
Etowah11735168
Calhoun11122200
Marshall10191107
Houston8598148
Cullman8023105
Limestone800274
Elmore7836101
DeKalb768397
Lauderdale754683
St. Clair7535120
Talladega6166108
Walker5897174
Jackson580341
Colbert532073
Blount530483
Autauga518455
Coffee441056
Dale396181
Franklin366248
Chilton336165
Russell330310
Covington327268
Escambia316842
Dallas303196
Chambers282769
Clarke281433
Tallapoosa2616107
Pike248729
Marion245650
Lawrence243647
Winston226635
Bibb215147
Geneva201435
Marengo199029
Pickens196531
Hale175842
Barbour172936
Butler169658
Fayette168226
Cherokee160330
Henry153621
Monroe145217
Randolph139835
Washington137626
Clay126145
Crenshaw118744
Lamar118019
Cleburne117423
Macon114735
Lowndes110335
Wilcox103121
Bullock99028
Perry97419
Conecuh94420
Sumter89026
Greene76023
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 685321

Reported Deaths: 8391
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby761671128
Davidson70706661
Knox38646393
Hamilton34556326
Rutherford33114283
Unassigned22759126
Williamson21364138
Sumner18205230
Out of TN1612079
Wilson14405155
Montgomery14367149
Sullivan12577211
Washington11889191
Blount11887124
Maury10941123
Bradley1075190
Sevier10461108
Putnam9931136
Madison9099178
Robertson761885
Hamblen6954109
Anderson6759102
Greene6569108
Tipton619065
Gibson5630111
Coffee560681
Cumberland537872
Dickson534678
Bedford532086
Roane519179
Carter5091112
Lawrence507569
McMinn506673
Warren497553
Loudon493750
Jefferson474975
Dyer473682
Monroe455162
Hawkins444968
Franklin410758
Obion399478
Fayette396251
Rhea381556
Lincoln378344
Marshall343536
Cocke342856
Weakley339448
Cheatham335230
Henderson332056
Campbell323940
Giles321071
White310043
Hardeman308752
Carroll307859
Hardin297647
Lauderdale293131
Macon287350
Wayne260719
Henry260358
Overton252942
DeKalb241741
Haywood239745
McNairy238142
Smith230527
Trousdale228714
Marion227731
Scott225231
Hickman222734
Fentress212531
Claiborne210129
Grainger208135
Johnson201532
Morgan188614
Crockett180338
Bledsoe174110
Chester173237
Unicoi166843
Cannon157019
Lake155319
Decatur147226
Polk142817
Grundy139320
Union138721
Sequatchie136518
Humphreys132617
Benton131935
Lewis127220
Meigs114016
Stewart105220
Jackson103721
Perry94725
Houston93922
Clay93726
Moore7959
Pickett67619
Van Buren6587
Hancock4026

Community Events