WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Former warden talks about accused triple-killer Jimmy Spencer

Jimmy Spencer's warden sizes up the ex-con and has sharp criticism of the parole board that set the now accused killer free.

Posted: Sep 25, 2019 5:28 PM
Updated: Sep 25, 2019 5:30 PM

Jimmy Spencer is the ex-con accused of last year's cold-blooded triple-killing in Guntersville. The brutal murders happened not long after Alabama’s parole board OK'ed Spencer’s release from prison.

WAAY 31's Greg Privett talked with one of Spencer’s former wardens about warning signs that could have kept the accused killer locked up.

“I wouldn’t have let him out,” David Wise told WAAY 31. Wise was the warden at St. Clair Correctional Facility. “Oh, I knew him at St. Clair. And he was trouble. I don’t know how he got out.”

Wise has choice words about Jimmy Spencer. “He was just, for lack of a better term, scum,” Wise said.

Spencer’s charged in the killings of a Guntersville grandmother, her grandson visiting from Huntsville and the woman’s neighbor.

“I sized him up," Wise told us. "He was a troublemaker. He got some disciplinary reports. He didn’t get along well with the staff. He had a terrible record.”

The murders happened in July of last year. The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles released Spencer six months earlier.

“I would say the judgment wasn’t good on that one,” Wise said. “I knew that inmate. And he never should have been let out. Spencer is one of those that should have never been let out.”

There was a long list of warning signs that could have kept Spencer locked up. He had trouble coping inside prison walls. Inside St. Clair, Spencer had violent outbursts, broke rules and constantly challenged corrections officers.

“If you can’t get along inside there, what makes you think you can get along outside here," Wise said. "And to me, no convict should get out on parole. I don’t care what he’s convicted of if he can’t show respect for the staff and the rules and regulation of the facility.”

Even so, Wise says deciding whether to release an inmate on parole means weighing risk.

“I think it’s a very difficult job to do," he said. "It’s a risk. And any way you look at it, corrections and parole are in the risk business. It’s just the way it is. You take a risk any time you let one out.”

He said even a non-violent inmate could do the unthinkable. “He could get out and kill somebody the next day.”

Wise insists there were missed opportunities to lock Spencer back inside prison walls.

“What really bothers me about the Spencer case is they were notified when he left that halfway house or whatever it was down in Birmingham. And no action was taken. They didn’t find him. They should have found him and locked him back up then.”

David Wise says Alabama's parole board should listen closely to corrections officers because they know the inmates.

“You have to really get inside the guy’s head," he said. "Why don’t you call that corrections officer that’s been walking around with this guy for 10 years and ask him some questions? “What about that correctional officer down in that cell block? He talked to him every day. He’s the one that watched his habits every day. He’s the one or she’s the one that knows this guy personally. Why not talk to them?”

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