Doddridge teen to be charged as adult in slayings
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Doddridge County teenager charged in the Labor Day murders of his father, mother and 9-year-old sister will be tried as an adult, officials said Thursday.
Doddridge Circuit Judge Tim Sweeney on Wednesday granted prosecutors' motion to transfer Joseph Spencer, 16, of West Union, to adult status, Doddridge Circuit Clerk Dwight Moore said.
Confusion at the circuit clerk's office kept Moore from releasing Spencer's file to reporters on Thursday, however. He said Spencer's case number has not changed yet and still reflected the suspect's former juvenile status.
"It's still considered a juvenile file," he said Thursday afternoon. "The transfer to adult jurisdiction has been granted, but at this point in the ballgame, I'm still treating it as a juvenile file until somebody tells me different.
"At some point in the future I suspect it will turn into something else."
Sweeney spent all day on the phone and eventually heard from the state Supreme Court staffers that he was allowed to release the documents. His office was closed by that point, however, but Sweeney said he would provide all the information on Friday morning.
The case will now head to the Doddridge County Grand Jury, which will meet on Oct. 22 and again in February. It is not clear when the county prosecutor plans to bring Spencer's case before the jury.
State law requires courts to transfer juvenile murder suspects to adult status if they are 14 or older, and there is enough evidence to support a murder charge.
Spencer, a junior at Doddridge County High School, is accused of killing his father, Fredrick Spencer III, his mom, Dixie, and his little sister, Patience, in their West Union home on Sept. 3.
Police reports said the three died of "multiple gunshot wounds." Fredrick's father, Fredrick Spencer Jr., told the Daily Mail last month Joseph called police himself following the shootings.
The Spencers' other two children were not present at the time of the shooting.
Their oldest daughter, Elisabeth, is a student at Marshall University and was in Huntington at the time of the shooting. Their oldest son, Ian, was on a date with his girlfriend.
The slayings occurred in a garage apartment where the family was living temporarily.
Fredrick, an international pilot for UPS, had taken a few months off work to build a log home on the property but was not yet finished. Joseph and Ian were sleeping in a camping trailer on the property, according to their grandfather.
Fredrick Spencer Jr. said he knew of only one gun in his son's home, and that was the pistol he carried at all times. Cargo flights don't receive as much protection as passenger flights, he explained, and the gun gave his son a little assurance during potentially dangerous international flights.
Police, bound by state law protecting juvenile suspects, have not released much more information about the killings, including the suspected motive.
Calls and messages left for Doddridge Prosecuting Attorney Brooke Fitzgerald were not returned Thursday.