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Board denies parole to Jimmy O’Neal Spencer

Spencer is accused of killing three people including a child in 2018 eight months after being released on parole.


The Alabama Bureau of Pardon and paroles unanimously denied parole to Jimmy O’Neal Spencer on Tuesday after hearing protests against his parole.

Gov. Kay Ivey urged the parole board to deny his parole in a letter on monday and Attorney General Steve Marshall spoke in person at the meeting to make his opposition clear.

Spencer is accused of killing two women and a 7-year-old child in 2018 eight months after being granted parole for a previous conviction.

“There are three people who could not be present: Colton Lee, Martha Reliford and Marie Martin,” Marshall said. “Three individuals whose lives were taken as as result of inexcusable errors that took place on behalf of the state of Alabama and allowed for Jimmy O’Neal Spencer to travel to Marshall County and commit the robbery and murder of three innocent victims.”

Spencer was granted parole in 2017 from two life sentences he was serving for eight different convictions including three for burglary, three for escape, one for assault and one for breaking and entering a motor vehicle. He is expected to go on trial for the 2018 murders in October.

If there is ever an example of someone who does not need to be released again, it is Jimmy O’Neal Spencer,” Marshall said.

Marshall noted that none of the three people currently serving on the board — chair Leigh Gwathney and associate members Dwayne Spurlock and Darryl Littleton — were there when Spencer was granted parole in 2017.

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Nobody spoke on behalf of Spencer at the hearing.

Marshall said Spencer’s case set an important precedent for the state.

“What I am grateful about is the fact that, as a result of this case, we highlighted the fact that the decisions that you make should be based on what is appropriate for community safety,” Marshall said. “For what is appropriate for releasing individuals in our society that can live there as productive citizens.”

The board also unanimously voted to delay the next parole hearing for Spencer for the maximum amount of five years.

Gwathney commended Marshall and state leaders for their actions following Spencer’s case.

2019 was a pivotal year for this state and for crime victims in the wake of Jimmy O’Neal Spencer,” Gwathney said. “We heard from all elected leadership in this state. You (Marshall) and Gov. Ivey took a tremendous stand in 2019 in the work you did to try to right a terrible wrong on behalf of crime victims … This is a hearing that we should not have.”

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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