Saturday, July 13, marks one year since the triple homicide that devastated the small town of Guntersville.
Marie Martin, was looking after her great-grandson, 7-year-old Colton Lee, in her home when they were brutally attacked and killed. After arriving on the scene, authorities went to check on a neighbor, Martha Dell Reliford, only to find that she had also been killed.
A cry for change from the victims’ families and supporters across the state has been answered. WZDX News sat down with the familys’ attorney, Tommy James.
“There has been positive change related to the parole board. Directly related to this, it was greatly strengthened,” says James.
Their attacker was 53-year-old Jimmy Spencer, a man with a violent criminal history dating back decades. The violence continued even after he was behind bars. He was granted parole. That’s when he relocated to Guntersville and eventually robbed and killed three people.
“The strengthening of the parole system will help prevent someone like Jimmy Spencer, who is a career criminal, dangerous guy from being released and hurting other people, like what happened in Guntersville,” James says.
New legislation has been passed in efforts to prevent criminals who could be a danger to the public from being released on parole.
Yesterday, Governor Kay Ivey appointed former attorney general Charles Graddick as the new director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
“It’s little consolation for these families that this change was made. And this change is long overdue. And it’s just heartbreaking that something like this had to happen to these people… for these drastic changes that’ve been needed to finally occur,” says James.
One year later, the families of these victims and the surrounding community are still shaken by this tragic loss but hopeful for justice.
Spencer is still undergoing a mental evaluation ordered by the judge. His next status hearing will be in September.