Man pleads guilty in mother’s killing

A Russellville man accused of killing his mother in September 2013 entered a guilty plea in the case this week, courthouse officials said.

According to Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing, James Chris Spencer, 46, of 704 Green Ave., Russellville, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of his 65-year-old mother, Rosalyn R. (Jo) Spencer.

Rushing said Spencer received a sentence of 35 years in prison.

“Considering Mr. Spencer’s age, he will probably spend the rest of his life in prison for this crime, which is what the family wanted,” Rushing said.

“We are very pleased with this outcome, especially since this was a circumstantial case.

“Usually those types of cases are much more difficult to prove, but the investigators in this case, both with the Russellville Police Department and the ABI, did an outstanding job of collecting evidence that gave us a very strong case against the defendant and helped to secure this guilty plea.

“We are glad that the family was able to see justice served.”

Spencer was originally charged with murder during the first week of September in 2013.

According to Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett, Jo Spencer’s body was discovered on the night of Sept. 5, 2013, inside the Green Avenue residence she shared with her son.

Hargett said officers were alerted to the situation after receiving a welfare call about 7 p.m. on Sept. 5.

“A neighbor called and said she was worried about her because she hadn’t talked with her in three or four days,” Hargett said.

He said the neighbor said they talked every day and no one had talked with her since Sunday.

“Our officers made entry and we found her body on the bedroom floor and there was evidence of a struggle,” he said.

Hargett said there were obvious wounds on Jo Spencer’s body and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences officially listed the cause of death as a deep stab wound to the abdomen, although the reports show she was also strangled and beaten during the attack.

Hargett also said when they found her body, it appeared she had been deceased for at least 2-3 days.

Police investigator Lt. Scotty Lowery said Chris Spencer was developed as a suspect during the course of the investigation, which was conducted with the help of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

Lowery said officers located Spencer the following morning at Helen Keller Hospital where he was being treated for an apparent drug overdose.

Hargett said an arrest warrant for the charge of murder was issued for Spencer on the afternoon of Sept. 6 but he was unable to be taken into custody while still a patient at the hospital so he remained under guarded condition until he was released from hospital care on Sept. 8.

Lowery said Spencer was immediately taken into custody at that time.

Franklin County District Judge Paula McDowell set Spencer’s bond at $500,000 at a bond hearing on Sept. 9, 2013.

Spencer has been in custody since his arrest at the Franklin County Jail.

“I’m glad we were able to get this case resolved,” Rushing said.

“At the time of Mr. Spencer’s arrest, he had several physical injuries, so we knew self-defense was a possibility in this case.

“His attorneys did a good job, but we felt we had a strong case against him, especially considering some of the crucial evidence collected at the scene.

“This was a terrible crime and we are glad it could be resolved without the victim’s family going through a trial.”


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