Doddridge County youth gets life sentence

WEST UNION – A Doddridge County youth sentenced to three life terms in prison on Monday for the murder of his father, mother and sister rues the day it happened, according to his attorney.

Joseph Spencer, 18, shackled and under guard in Doddridge County Circuit Court Monday, appeared before Judge Tim Sweeney, who sentenced him to three life terms with mercy.

“He is remorseful,” attorney Rod Windom of Harrisville said on Tuesday. “I’m sure he wishes it never occurred.”

The shootings occurred Sept. 3, 2012, at the Spencer home in West Union.

Spencer last month pleaded guilty to shooting his father, Frederick Arthur Spencer III, 49, his mother, Dixie Lee Spencer, 47, and his 9-year-old sister, Patience Spencer.

Everything about the case was known soon after it happened, except why, Windom said. Investigators tried to explain an irrational event with a rational reason, he said.

“We knew everything but the ‘why,'” he said. “I still don’t know why.”

Sweeney ruled the sentence on the two murder counts for Spencer’s father and mother be concurrently served, Windom said. The sentence for the murder of his sister will be served consecutively after the first two, he said.

Each sentence was for 15 years to life. Spencer will serve 30 years before he is eligible for parole, Windom said.

“I think the plea agreement is a fair disposition for all parties involved,” Windom said.

Prosecutor Brook Fitzgerald was not immediately available for a comment.

Spencer turned 18 on New Year’s Eve and was previously held under juvenile detention. He was ordered transferred to the Division of Corrections and Windom expects Spencer will be placed in a facility within a week.

He received credit for 526 days while in juvenile custody since the shootings occurred.

Spencer pleaded guilty in January, admitting he shot his father, mother and sister with his dad’s 9 mm pistol on Labor Day. His father was an airplane pilot, his mother a teacher and his sister a student at Doddridge County Elementary School.

The plea agreement with the state recommended the sentences for the mother and father would be concurrent, then the sentence for the sister would be served. The family expressed concern Spencer should receive psychiatric treatment while in prison, Windom said.

“Do I think those needs would be met within the West Virginia penal system? Unfortunately, I do not think they will,” Windom said. “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.”