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New details emerge in Doddridge family slaying

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Newly released documents provide additional details about the Labor Day slayings of a Doddridge County family.

Joseph Spencer, 16, told police he used his father's 9 mm pistol to kill his father, Fredrick Spencer III; his mother, Dixie; and his 9-year-old sister, Patience, in their Mastons Road home near West Union.

Police and court officials initially were tight-lipped with details about the slayings because of the suspect's age.

But Doddridge Circuit Judge Tim Sweeney granted a motion Wednesday to transfer Joseph Spencer to adult status, unsealing all court documents related to the case, including the initial criminal complaint against the teen.

According to that report, Doddridge County Sheriff's Deputy C.W. Modesitt was dispatched to the Spencer home about 6 p.m. Sept. 3, Labor Day.

Joseph Spencer called 911 himself, telling operators he had shot his family members, according to the report.

Modesitt apprehended Spencer as soon as he arrived at the residence and placed the boy in his police cruiser. The deputy then began searching the buildings on the property.

The teen's grandfather, Fredrick Spencer Jr., told the Daily Mail last month his son, a commercial pilot, had taken a few months off work this summer to build a log home for his family. The house wasn't completed so the family was living in a garage apartment on the property.

That is apparently where the shootings took place.

The grandfather also told a Daily Mail reporter the only gun he knew of in the house was a handgun his son carried with him at all times. He said cargo flights do not receive the same kind of protection passenger flights receive, and the firearm gave his son an added sense of security on potentially dangerous international flights.

Modesitt came across Dixie's lifeless body first, "lying outside at the feet of the porch steps, dead from apparent gunshots," he wrote in the report.

Moving through the front downstairs door, he found Patience, also dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Modesitt walked up the stairs to the apartment where he found a third victim, Fredrick Spencer III, in a back bedroom.

"(Joseph) Spencer advised that he loaded the 9 mm handgun belonging to his father and shot all three family members before calling 911," the deputy wrote.

The police report ends there. It is unclear how the events unfolded or what the motive might have been.

The youth was taken to the Lorrie Yeager Jr. Juvenile Detention Facility in Parkersburg. A magistrate appointed Rodney Windom as Spencer's attorney on Sept. 4.

Spencer then waived his right to appear at a preliminary hearing, set for Sept. 13, going by Windom's advice. At that hearing, the court ordered Spencer would stay at the detention center.

"Procedurally, his case is going to be handled as an adult. As far as his person goes, he is still a juvenile and has to be treated and housed as a juvenile," Windom explained on Friday.

Doddridge prosecuting attorney Brooke Fitzgerald filed a motion on Sept. 27 to transfer Spencer to adult status. The judge granted that motion last Wednesday.

At the same hearing, Windom requested the court place Spencer under the legal custody of the state Department of Health and Human Resources because his parents were dead and there was no other responsible adult to take custody. The prosecutor agreed with Windom's suggestion, and Sweeney granted the motion.

"If he has to have his appendix out or gets injured, somebody has to have that legal authority to authorize treatment," Windom said.

Spencer likely will make his first court appearance some time next year, before a grand jury. The grand jury meets later this month, but Windom said his client's case will not be ready.

"The investigation is still ongoing. As you can imagine, there's quite a bit of evidence in a case like this," he said.

The grand jury will not meet again until February. The court has not set bail for Spencer, and Windom doubts it will.

Fredrick and Dixie Spencer had two other children. Their oldest daughter, Elisabeth, is a junior at Marshall University and was in Huntington at the time of the shooting. Their oldest son, Ian, a senior at Doddridge County High, was on a date with his girlfriend.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or Follow him at


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