Spensley enters a guilty plea in Jones County
On July 15, 2019, James Randall Spensley entered a plea in the Superior Court of Jones County before the Honorable William A. Prior, Jr. Spensley pled guilty to charges arising from an incident occurring nearly a year before on July 27, 2018. Spensley, in the early morning hours, intentionally set fire to the residence of Inv. Heather Murray of the Jasper County Sheriff's Department. She was asleep at home at the time as well as her husband and her three children, 8, 4 and 2 months. A passing neighbor saw the blaze while leaving the neighborhood for work and managed to wake the family. The investigation of the Jones County Sheriff's Department found a receipt in the immediate vicinity of the fire. This receipt was for a fire starter product at the local Wal-Mart. The video from the Wal-Mart showed a man, later identified as James Spensley, coming in and purchasing the fire starter. The Jones County Sheriff's Office posted the images on social media by the late afternoon of July 27, 2018. For the next two weeks, Mr. Spensley managed to evade attempts to locate him by the Jones County Sheriff's Office and the Fugitive Task Force. Eventually, Spensley was captured by neighboring Bibb County Sheriff's deputies.
The investigation showed that Mr. Spensley was angry at Inv. Heather Murray for her role in his arrest in Jasper County, two years earlier, for the offense of Criminal Attempt to Commit Child Molestation and Obscene Contact with A Minor. Those charges were pending in the Superior Court in Jasper County and Spensley later admitted that he hoped to scare the Investigator enough that the charges would be "overlooked" or "dropped". Spensley found out where the Investigator lived through public records.
Inv. Murray spoke at the plea of James Spensley and passionately stated that she had considered leaving law enforcement after this attack due to the fear for her family but she decided to stay the course so that "the bad guys didn't win." Spensley pled guilty to Arson in First Degree, Aggravated Assault on a Peace Officer and Aggravated Assault. He was sentenced to Sixty (60) years with the first thirty (30) years in prison. He was banished from the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, which includes Jasper and Jones counties. Senior Assistant Dawn M. Baskin prosecuted the case.