UPDATE: Doddridge County Teen Sentenced

By: Todd Baucher, Shannon Houser, The Associated Press Email
By: Todd Baucher, Shannon Houser, The Associated Press Email
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UPDATE 2/10/2014 5:05 PM

Life with mercy.

That's the sentence for a Doddridge county teenager guilty of killing three members of his family.

Joseph Spencer got that sentence Monday for the deaths nearly 18 months ago of his father, mother and younger sister.

Spencer, who is now 18, will serve his sentence in the West Virginia Penitentiary.

But his attorney is concerned he won't get the psychiatric help he needs.

"Did I think those needs would be met within the West Virginia penal system? Unfortunately, I do not think they will," says Spencer's attorney, Rodney Windom. "Our mental health care in the penitentiary system is lacking, and that is a disservice to the inmates and to the state of West Virginia and the public."

The deaths happened on Labor Day, 2012.

Spencer shot his father and then his mother to death before killing his sister.

He pleaded guilty last month to three first-degree murder charges.


UPDATE 2/10/2014 3:15 PM

Joseph Spencer receives three 30 years to life sentences.

The first two sentences will run concurrently, while the third will run consecutive to the other two.

He is eligible for parole after 15 years.

The Doddridge County teenager is accused of killing his father, mother and sister at the Spencers' West Union home on Labor Day weekend of 2012.


UPDATE 1/15/2014 5:15 PM

Guilty, guilty and guilty.

Those are Joseph Spencer's pleas to the murders of three members of his family.

These were deaths 17 months ago, which shocked not only West Union and Doddridge County but, at the time, all of West Virginia.

And Wednesday, on the record, Spencer admitted to killing his father, mother, and 9-year old sister.

The 17-year old could face at least 30 years in prison if judge Timothy Sweeney accepts the plea agreement.

Prosecutors say they have worked closely with Spencer's family and others in working out this agreement.

"We have had multiple conversations between each other and with the officer as to what is in the best interests of justice," says Doddridge County Prosecuting Attorney Brooke Fitzgerald. "Combining those two together, we believe that in this case, the plea agreement is both in the interest of justice and in the interest of the family."

That was echoed by a Spencer family member, who addressed the court during the plea hearing.

A pre-sentence investigation has been ordered, and Spencer's sentencing is set for next month.

The sentences are two 15 years to life sentences.

Those are on two of the three counts Spencer plead to.

The third first-degree murder count will run consecutive to the other two, as part of the plea agreement.


UPDATE 1/15/2014 2:35 PM

Joseph Spencer pleaded guilty Wednesday to three counts of first degree murder.

Individually, those counts are for the deaths of his father, Frederick Spencer, his mother, Dixie Spencer and his sister, Patience Spencer.

Each charge carries a sentence of 15 years to life behind bars.

The plea agreement calls for the first two sentences to run concurrently.

The sentence on count three is to run consecutive to the first two sentences.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 10.

The Doddridge County teenager is accused of killing his father, mother and sister at the Spencers' West Union home on Labor Day weekend of 2012.


UPDATE 1/3/2014 5:05 PM

The crime shocked the community.

But it looks like it will end with a plea agreement.

Prosecution and defense attorneys informed Judge Tim Sweeney of the agreement at a hearing originally scheduled to hear motions in the case of Joseph Spencer.

The Doddridge County teenager is accused of killing his father, mother and sister at the Spencers' West Union home on Labor Day weekend of 2012.

Spencer is expected to plead guilty to his three original murder charges, with other details to be worked out.

A plea hearing is set for later this month


UPDATE 1/3/2014 4:00 PM

Joseph Spencer appeared in court Friday.

The Doddridge County teenager is accused of killing three family members.

A plea hearing was set for January 15 at 9 a.m.

He is expected to plead guilty to his three original murder charges, with other details to be worked out.


Update: 1/02/2014 6:30 P.M.

Joseph Spencer's attorney, Rod Windom, confirmed the plea agreement to us late Thursday. He emphasizes, however, that it is an agreement in principle, which has not yet been accepted by the court.

Windom says the agreement will include dropping of the three murder charges against him, while Spencer pleads to other charges.

However, Doddridge County Prosecuting Attorney Brooke Fitzgerald says "no charges are being dropped, dismissed or disposed of".

Fitzgerald goes on to say that "the (Spencer) family has been involved in every stage of this".

A plea hearing could happen later this month.

Spencer's trial was scheduled to begin Monday.

UPDATE 10/31/2013 11:00 AM

WEST UNION, W.Va. (AP) - A Doddridge County teenager accused of killing three family members goes on trial early next year.

A judge scheduled 17-year-old Joseph Spencer's trial for Jan. 6 in Doddridge County Circuit Court.

Spencer is charged with fatally shooting his parents, 49-year-old Frederick Spencer and 47-year-old Dixie Spencer, and his 9-year-old sister, Patience Spencer on Sept. 3, 2012. The victims' bodies were found at their home outside West Union.

A judge transferred the teenager to adult status in October 2012.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Update: 2/12/2013 5:40 P.M.

Circuit Judge Timothy Sweeney, and not defendant Joseph Spencer, entered a not guilty plea to three counts of murder, one for each slain member of the 16 year-old's family.

The reason Spencer himself did not answer to the charges was explained by his attorney.

"There was a recent psychiatric and psychological examination to determine the mental competency of Mr. Spencer," said attorney Rodney Windom. "We have not yet received that information from the psychologist and psychiatrist."

Spencer's trial is set for early April. but Doddridge County Prosecutor Brooke Fitzgerald first wants him to provide a D.N.A. sample. Attorney Windom objected to that, citing the material that's already been taken into evidence in the case.

While the other defendants form Monday's grand jury indictments were seated throughout Tuesday's arraignments, Spencer was brought in-and exited-from a back room. A person who changed a family, and a community, on one day in September, is himself, no doubt, been changed by the events of the past few months.

Spencer was one of more than a dozen people indicted by the Doddridge County Grand Jury on various charges Monday.

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Update: 10/04/2012 9:50 A.M.

The suspect in the shooting deaths of three family members on Labor Day will be tried as an adult.

The Doddridge County Sheriff's Office confirmed to WTAP News Thursday morning that Joseph Spencer is being transferred to adult status.

Spencer has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Frederick and Dixie Spencer, and their nine-year old daughter, Patience.

The sheriff's office says Spencer's case will be heard by the Doddridge County Grand Jury, but could not say when that will happen.

The grand jury's next sessions will be held in October, February and next July.

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UPDATE: 09/06/2012

A memorial service is scheduled Thursday evening, for a mother, father and their 9 year old daughter that were shot and killed in their Doddridge Co. home Monday night.

The public is invited to the event organized to remember and support the 49 year old Frederick Spencer III, 47 year old Dixie Spencer and 9 year old Patience as well as their families.

It begins tonight at 7:00pm at Doddridge County High School.

It is being organized by the local ministerial alliance.


SALEM, W.Va. (AP) - A memorial service for three slain members of a Doddridge County family will be held Saturday at Salem International University.

Harbet Funeral Home says the service for 49-year-old Frederick A. Spencer III, his wife, 47-year-old Dixie Spencer, and their 9-year-old daughter, Patience, is set for 2 p.m. in the gymnasium on Salem's campus in Salem.

Police say the victims were fatally shot Monday evening at their home in West Union.

The Doddridge County Sheriff's Department says the suspect is a juvenile relative but is not releasing any more information.

Dixie Spencer and Frederick Spencer were graduates of Salem College, which is now Salem International. Dixie Spencer was a science teacher at Ritchie County Middle School. Frederick Spencer was a pilot for United Parcel Service.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


Update: 09/05/2012 5:30 P.M.

The Doddridge County Sheriff's Department Wednesday afternoon released a statement saying it will not release any further information about the investigation.

Among the victims: Dixie Spencer, who was a Ritchie County school teacher.

The sheriff's department cites the serious nature of the incident, and that juveniles are involved, including a juvenile charged with the fatal shootings.

In the words of deputy C.W. Modesitt, "We feel that the privacy and peace of the surviving family members is of chief importance through this ordeal".

Meanwhile, details are still being finalized, but Doddridge County school officials are planning a "service of healing" Thursday night, to honor the victims of Monday's shooting.

Update: 09/04/2012 6:30 P.M.

24 hours after the shooting, the Doddridge County Sheriff's Department was releasing few details, saying only that the juvenile shooting suspect was related to the victims, and was being charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

"It's just heartbreaking," said resident Ersa Skjerli. "Something needs to be done with our teens, and to try to help them, and put a stop to all this violence."

The victims are believed to be three members of the same family. Two family members involved are reported to have gone to Doddridge County Schools. The school system Tuesday had support from both the community and the local ministerial alliance.

"The compassion and love from the surrounding communities was overwhelming," said Rick Coffman, Superintendent, Doddridge County Schools. "Lots of professionals have come in for grief counseling on our students and staff, especially at the elementary and high school."

Few people we approached wanted to say much about the incident. Those who did understood why it's getting the attention it has.
"It's news for everybody because this is a small community," said Barry Carpenter. "People can't believe it happened in this little town."

It is a small town-about 800 residents. Meaning that even those who didn't know the victims, feel they're like family.

"They can't believe it's happened," Skjerli said. "And our prayers and support go out to the rest of the family."

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UPDATE: 09/04/2012 5:01 PM

People in Ritchie County are devastated by the death of a local teacher.

Bizzare, shocking and unexplainable. A Ritchie County teacher murdered with her husband and daughter. The community, school, and students are grieving.

"It's a small community and people think they're very safe here. It's escalating throughout the country, this badness," Jacqueline says.

Dixie Spencer taught 7th grade science. She was well liked at school and in the community.

"My sisters have taken it really hard because they're really good friends with the mother of the woman that got shot, and the woman, so I know they've taken it really hard," says Chrystal.

But even more devastating, her teenage son is in custody.

"I think it's terrible. I don't see how a 17 year old could do that. I just don't," Chrystal adds.

"I think it's a terrible thing but I don't think there's any way we can really stop it. Our young people are faced with so many distractions in their life. It's just a terrible thing that's all I can really say about it," Joseph says.

Tragedy for this small community striking way too close to home.

"I think it's a terrible thing that people do the things they do. There's not enough love in the country. They should treat each other with respect and dignity. People just don't do that anymore," adds Jacqueline.

Ritchie and Doddridge County schools have relief counselors on hand to help students cope with the loss.

Ritchie County Schools are not making any comments about the death of Mrs. Spencer.

WTAP independently confirms her husband, Fred, as one of the victims.
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UPDATE: 09/04/2012 12:23 PM

School officials confirm one of the victims in a shooting in Doddridge County is a teacher in Ritchie County.

They say Dixie Spencer is one of the victims. She was a 7th grade science teacher at Ritchie County Middle School.

Other sources tell us her husband and young daughter were also shot. That daughter is a middle school student in Doddridge County.

They say the Spencer's juvenile son is the shooter.

School officials say he is a junior at Doddridge County High School.

Relief counselors are on hand today at Ritchie County Middle School and Doddridge County Schools.

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Three people are dead, and a juvenile is in custody, after a Monday night shooting in Doddridge County.

The triple homicide happened close to 6:00 Monday night at a residence off route 18 north.

The sheriff's department is releasing few details, but says the three died of gunshot wounds.

None of the victims' names, or that of the alleged gunman, have been released.

We'll have the latest details as they become available, on the air, and on the web.


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