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 4, 2021 11:47 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
Mostly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
Florence
Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 72°
Fayetteville
Mostly Cloudy
71° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 71°
Decatur
Cloudy
71° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 71°
Scottsboro
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

 

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
Etowah13927353
Marshall12280225
Houston10650282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10075151
St. Clair9955245
Cullman9773194
Lauderdale9465243
DeKalb8866188
Talladega8344176
Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
Fayette213162
Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
Bullock123342
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 858355

Reported Deaths: 12327
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby967281638
Davidson89777942
Knox51190637
Hamilton44647496
Rutherford43278437
Williamson28148217
Sumner24170349
Montgomery20475228
Wilson18929236
Out of TN1826899
Sullivan16994300
Unassigned16910134
Blount15582196
Bradley15123151
Washington14713245
Maury13566172
Sevier13464176
Putnam11444175
Madison11292241
Robertson9810132
Anderson8810171
Hamblen8633173
Greene7936156
Tipton7403104
Coffee6925123
Dickson6856113
Cumberland6775133
Carter6671158
Gibson6559146
McMinn655998
Bedford6528129
Roane6327105
Jefferson6249125
Hawkins6188107
Loudon617169
Lawrence599191
Monroe588796
Warren556481
Dyer5445106
Franklin516590
Fayette512678
Cheatham458456
Obion455596
Cocke452699
Lincoln437163
Rhea436375
Marshall420758
Campbell417863
Weakley416965
Giles4014100
Henderson381176
White368970
Carroll363683
Macon363178
Hardin358568
Hardeman354364
Lauderdale321044
Henry320976
Claiborne318973
Scott316045
Marion313147
Overton302561
Wayne296934
Hickman285146
McNairy284454
DeKalb280754
Smith278939
Haywood271562
Grainger263950
Morgan251939
Trousdale250622
Fentress243447
Johnson242239
Bledsoe216311
Chester215551
Polk209725
Unicoi204449
Crockett203649
Cannon192831
Union192834
Humphreys182428
Grundy179434
Sequatchie171729
Lake170526
Benton167640
Decatur159239
Lewis158626
Meigs139325
Stewart133428
Jackson132536
Clay110330
Houston109933
Perry107328
Moore101817
Van Buren85523
Pickett75824
Hancock59512

Community Events