FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2019
For media inquiries only, contact:
Mike Lewis (334) 353-2199
Joy Patterson (334) 242-7491
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Alabama Attorney General
Attorney General Steve Marshall Announces Settlement with
Victims’ Families in Jimmy O’Neal Spencer Case
(MONTGOMERY) – 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. 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
Attorney General Marshall recused himself and was not a part of the settlement
negotiations, having previously known two of the victims.
Prior to his release and subsequent murder spree, Jimmy O’Neal 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
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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
*The actual amount received by the families will be less attorneys’ fees.
Note: Spencer was charged with capital murder in August 2018. He is currently awaiting trial
in the Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery, Alabama. Defendants in criminal cases are
presumed innocent until proven guilty.