The capital murder trial of Jimmy O’Neal Spencer will be tried in April. 

Marshall County Court officials said Spencer’s trial was postponed to April 26 due to a large amount of evidence the judge must review. 

His trial was set to begin Jan. 10. 

Judge Tim Riley will preside over the trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks. 

Officials say there are thousands of photographs and hours of statements from the defendant and witnesses that the judge must review prior to the trial and there simply wasn’t enough time for him to do that.

Spencer is charged with the July 2018 murders of Marie Martin, her 7-year-old great-grandson, Colton Lee, and her neighbor Martha Reliford in Guntersville. 

Spencer was on parole when he allegedly committed the crimes.

Murder on Mulberry Street

At the time of the murders, the homeless convict was a violent offender just out of prison. Authorities said Spencer strangled and stabbed Martin before taking off with an undisclosed amount of cash. Lee, they said, died from blunt force trauma.

The boy and his great-grandmother were found dead that Friday at her Mulberry Street home. Reliford - also killed by blunt force trauma - was found dead in her home across the street the same night. Investigators said she was hit with the flat side of a hatchet, stabbed and robbed.

Spencer had a string of arrests beginning in 1984 at the age of 19 involving violent offenses and was twice sentenced to life imprisonment. Yet he was granted parole on Nov. 2, 2017, and released to a homeless shelter in Birmingham, where he was supposed to remain for six months. He left three weeks later.

Spencer traveled to Guntersville, where he had several run-ins with law enforcement and was charged for multiple violations of the law, from traffic offenses and possession of drug paraphernalia, to attempting to elude police, resisting arrest and illegal possession of a firearm. However, his parole was not revoked.

Marshall County District Attorney Everette Johnson said the case is a complex one full of forensic evidence and witnesses.

“Any time you have three victims, your case is essentially going to be three cases in one,” Johnson said.

“You have to have proof of murder for each victim. The more victims you have, the more complex the case, the longer it takes and the more witnesses you have to call.”

Johnson said the case is expected to last at least two weeks and the jury pool will include about 450 potential jurors.

Shank found

When Spencer arrived at the Marshall County Jail June 4, 2021, authorities discovered a homemade weapon in his possession.

Sheriff Phil Sims said at the time Spencer was brought to the jail’s booking area, authorities scanned him and discovered a shank on his person.

Deputies picked up Spencer at Kilby Prison where he is being held under maximum security at the prison in close custody.

“We all know Spencer’s background,” Sims said. “We know he can be a violent person, so it is important we find this stuff because if he gets access to this stuff and we don’t know it, he could injure another inmate or injure our corrections officers.”

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