Grant Me Justice: Two Women Killed in Two Weeks | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Grant Me Justice: Two Women Killed in Two Weeks

Enjoying the slight drop in temperature on Monday, Sept. 17, Doris Shavers sat laughing with friends and family in her mother Ethel Sanders' front yard where the family liked to emerge from their nearby houses and fellowship. Their children played among them, riding bikes and jumping on the trampoline across Ludlow Avenue in Doris' front yard.

Doris didn't have to report to her office-cleaning job for another hour or so. She had time to enjoy her family and hang out with her two daughters, Carleshia, 15, and Jessica, 12. Her other daughter, Shalandria, 21, was off at Mississippi State; she plans to become a pediatrician some day.

Tim, a mentally handicapped teenager who doesn't know his own age--many say 12, his grandmother says 19--rode by the crowded yard and called out to a few of the girls as he pulled up on his bicycle: 'You my girlfriend!' Tim insisted on calling all the females in the neighborhood his girlfriends, even the mothers and grandmothers.

The oldest of Sanders' five children, Doris, 40, engaged in playful sibling teasing with her brother, Clifton Hopkins Jr., who had just gotten home from work. Clifton, along with their brother James Hopkins, had lived with their mother across the street since the death of their step-dad.

'You in love with Henry,' Gene, a deaf friend, signed to Doris. Clifton laughed as Doris ran each of her index fingers down the sides of her face signing 'I'm crying' back to Gene.

Doris, an '85 Lanier grad who was born at UMC, loved to laugh and joke. She was a church-going woman who had studied cosmetology, but had to drop the trade after a car accident had given her a bad knee that she couldn't stand on all day.

Henry was Henry Phillips, Doris' ex-boyfriend, whom she had met about three years before when they both did janitorial work at the Jackson airport. Although the pair had ended their relationship nearly a year earlier, Doris let Henry stay in a spare room in her house. An accident at his Home Depot job had left him with a broken foot and unable to work. When his own family turned him away, Doris allowed Henry to live in her four-bedroom home until he was able to go back to work. Since getting his cast off two months before, Henry had returned to work and was in the process of looking for a new place to live.

But he had a problem: Henry was extremely jealous of any attention that his ex-girlfriend gave to or received from others. On that Monday night, Sept. 17, Henry sat alone inside Doris' house rather than socializing with everyone else outside.

His guns weren't far away.

'I Know That Ain't a Gun'
Soon Doris got out of her chair in the yard, saying her goodbyes for the night, then headed across the street to get ready for work. It was about 8 p.m.

Back in her house, Doris sat on her paisley-print sofa with her 12-year-old daughter, Jessica. A Ten Commandments placard hung on the peach-colored walls above their heads.

It was Jessica's birthday. Over the weekend, her friends had come over for a slumber party. Known for being a fantastic cook, Doris had prepared a big breakfast feast for the girls the next morning.

Jessica drew near, and Doris leisurely started taking her daughter's hair down before leaving for her evening shift. Henry walked past them, stepping out the front door.

From his bike on the street, Tim noticed Henry standing in front of Doris' place. 'Get away from that house!' Tim called out to Henry as he rode by. 'Doris is my girlfriend.'

The others were still socializing across the street, as he watched Henry turn and walk back inside the house. Clifton--known as 'Junior'--got up and walked to his '77 Chevy Malibu, jumped in and moved it to a shadier spot so he could rip the dingy carpet out and replace it that night.

Glancing up, Clifton saw Henry walk back out, this time with something in his hand. 'I know that ain't a gun,' Clifton thought to himself. Henry cocked the handgun and pointing it toward the street, he aimed it straight at Tim.

Tim peddled away as fast as he could, taking cover in the yard in front of a blue house about four houses down.

Henry then went back into the house. Soon, a scared-looking Tim came back and joined the others who were shocked by what Henry had just done.

'He scare me,' Tim said. 'I want to call the policeman and tell them he pointed a gun at me.'

Tim borrowed a cell phone from Milton Finch, the father of Doris' two youngest, over to see Jessica on her birthday. Milton dialed the number for the police and handed the phone to Tim. When Tim became confused, Milton took the phone back and told police what happened.

Two JPD cars soon pulled up, one parking in the street and one blocking Ethel's driveway. Doris and Jessica had come out and joined Milton and Lavon Day, an aunt, to watch in Doris' driveway, as others watched from across the street. They heard the cops talk to Tim first, who said, 'Me ridin' me bike playin',' and then they questioned Henry, whom they spread-eagled against a cop car. They took the gun he had pulled on Tim, put it in a white bag and put it in the squad car.

'Yeah, I did it,' Henry said. 'I don't play with kids!'

The officers found a hair pick on Henry with a comb on one side, and one sharp pick on the other. Officer Kenny Bryant said, pointing to the pick, 'You know, I could arrest you for that. ... It's considered a concealed weapon. But I won't.'

The officers pulled Henry's gun back out and put it on the roof of the car. Henry told the cops he had a second gun, too. He pulled a receipt out for it, showing he had bought it legally at a pawn shop. An officer asked him where he got the gun he showed them; he said he bought it 'off the street.' The cop asked 'if there were any bodies on this gun.'

The officers had figured out that Henry had an outstanding ticket of some sort, but not a felony, even though the family said Henry openly bragged that he had done time for selling drugs and 'doing more than I sold.' But Bryant handed Henry's gun back to him, saying that he wasn't going to arrest him because he didn't have outstanding arrest warrants. 'Consider this your lucky day,' he said. The officers got back into their vehicles and drove away.

'Is She Dead? Is She Dead?'
Angry and confused by the officer's actions, Clifton Hopkins immediately dialed Precinct 3 and made a complaint about the officers not taking the guns from Henry.

'What do you want us to do?' Clifton remembers hearing on the other end of the phone. 'No one got hurt.'

'I want you to either come take him to jail or take his guns away from him before someone gets hurt,' Clifton replied. His pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears. He hung up in frustration.

Moments later, though, two different police cars turned onto Ludlow Avenue. Two different officers, including Officer Richard Polk, began questioning Henry again in front of Doris' home. Henry handed the second set of officers the same gun.

'He still has another gun!' Clifton told the officers. 'He has two guns!'

Agitated, Officer Polk turned toward Clifton and pointed toward his mother's house saying, 'You just need to mind your own f*cking business and go back across the street!'

Speechless, Clifton backed away as the officers got back in their cars and drove away with only one of Henry's guns.

Doris and Jessica went back inside. Henry came from behind the house and followed. When the front door opened, Jessica glanced up to see Henry walking in. Doris never looked up. Henry walked over to the sofa, lifting his gun above Doris' head and pointed it straight down, pulling the trigger.

As Clifton watched the first JPD car turn right on Crawford Street, he heard three gunshots from inside Doris' home.

Henry then stepped out the front door, pointed his gun and started randomly firing shots across the yard.

Chaos broke out as parents and children frantically jumped behind cars and trees or ran for other cover while dodging bullets. Clifton ran into the neighbor's yard south of Doris' home and hid behind a pine tree. Milton ran into the same neighbor's yard. A bullet grazed his shoulder before he could dive into a group of bushes that lined the fence.

Peeking from behind the pine tree, Clifton watched as Henry walked back into the house. He heard the clip hit Doris' vinyl floor and the sound of the gun being reloaded.

Walking back out the door, Henry began his shooting rampage all over again as he ran through the front yard and turned left on Ludlow Avenue running down the street. Police would later find him lying on the ground by a tree on the Mary C. Jones Community Center playground on Martin Luther King Drive.

Clifton, his cousin Jackie Stephens and brother Sammie Hopkins raced into Doris' house seconds later. Clifton locked the door behind them in case Henry decided to come back.

Tucked into the corner of the sofa was Jessica. Her eyes and mouth were wide open as she stared down at her mother slumped over with her head lying beside Jessica's leg, as 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' warned on the wall overhead.

Clifton grabbed Doris. He could hear Jessica's voice, but it sounded like it was miles away. 'Henry shot her,' the daughter said on her birthday. 'Is she dead?'

Not answering her, Clifton dragged Doris' limp body from the sofa onto the floor. 'You're OK, Doris! Doris!' Clifton wept.

'Is she dead?' Jessica continued. 'Is she dead? Clifton, is she dead?' she begged.

'I don't know!' Clifton said, covered with Doris' blood. 'I think she might be.'

Jessica's screams and wailing filled the room. 'Get her out of here!' Clifton shouted to Sammie. 'Get her out!' Sammie dragged Jessica out the front door.

Doris seemed to gasp for air, and Clifton leaned over to start CPR on her. Traumatized, he couldn't remember how to do it. Rolling her over on her side, he opened her mouth trying to clear her airway. Parts of Doris, after being shot in the head, twice flowed freely from her opened mouth. She had what appeared to be a defensive wound in her right hand.

Not knowing what else to do, Clifton sat her straight up and leaned her against his cousin Jackie as he began applying pressure to the two holes on the top of her head in an attempt to slow down the bleeding.

Clifton and Jackie were still sitting on the floor holding Doris when the two police officers who had just left walked through Doris' front door. 'Did he shoot her?' one of them asked, then said to the other officer, 'He shot her, man!'

'I told you motherf*ckers that he was going to do this!' Clifton screamed at the officers.

'Calm down,' one of the officers, a female, said to him.

'Don't tell me to calm down,' Clifton shouted back. 'If you would have done your job right the first time, this wouldn't have happened!'

Death by Gun
Gun laws are extremely liberal in Mississippi, making it difficult for law enforcement to take guns away from 'law-abiding citizens'--a person who hasn't committed a crime, yet, or been caught--unless they do something really egregious.

The state's 'gunslinger' law allows a citizen to carry a gun in their car or place of business, as long as it is not concealed. And last year, Gov. Haley Barbour pleased the National Rifle Association when he signed the 'Castle Doctrine' into law, allowing Mississippians to use 'any force necessary' against someone breaking into their homes, occupied vehicles or place of business, because they may presume the person is there to do them harm. The law also immunizes the shooters in these cases from lawsuits.

Barbour also signed a law that prohibits officials from seizing or confiscating firearms in the event of a future natural disaster in Mississippi, and permits employees to transport and store firearms in their locked vehicles while parked on their employer's property if the employer does not provide secure parking separate from the public.

But, even in Mississippi, you cannot pick up your gun and point it at a kid, or anyone else, in the street. That is brandishing, and it is not legal under any of the state's gun laws.

In other words, the police officers twice allowed a man who had threatened a teen to have his guns back, left him in a volatile situation surrounded by many adults and children, and was even dismissive and rude to a man in the neighborhood who wanted his friends and family protected from an angry, jealous man.

Perhaps this lax attitude toward guns is the reason that Mississippi is one of the most dangerous states for women in the country. The state has many guns, and people use them. And they often use them in domestic situations, meaning that a lot of people without criminal records kill or seriously injure people close to them in heated moments of passion because guns are so readily available.

The facts prove the problem: In 2000, Mississippi ranked No. 1 in the nation for the rate of women killed by handguns: 2.72 per 100,000, or 40 homicides. Mississippi ranked No. 7 in the nation for total gun deaths in 2003, with 471 homicides. In 2004, there were 471 gun deaths.

Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to guns. Women who own guns are three times more likely to be killed by guns.

The Jackson Police Department is under heavy fire for their apparent mishandling of the volatile situation on Ludlow that Monday night, coming so closely on the heels of another brutal domestic murder exactly one week before. JPD has done little to address community concerns about how the police may not be defusing domestic situations, and also how they may be endangering the community as happened when Henry came out of the house and started firing at everyone in sight. After the Doris Shavers murder, Chief Shirlene Anderson only released a statement saying it was a 'personnel matter.'

Doris' loved ones had hoped that police would return the next day to pick up the shell casings from the bullets that killed the beautiful, hard-working mother of three. After all, the small brass pieces of evidence were still lying on the paisley-print sofa next to the blood-stained pillows that JPD also left behind.

But the shell casings were still on the sofa two days later when the Jackson Free Press went to Doris' street to hear the story on Wednesday. Since Monday night, the men in the neighborhood had steadfastly guarded the perimeter of the living room until the police remembered to come back and finish the job that they half-assed on Monday night. Milton had even changed the lock in order to guard the integrity of the evidence.

It wasn't until later Wednesday afternoon, when Mayor Frank Melton showed up with his security detail and a media entourage that the casings from the sofa were bagged up.

The Monster She Loved
On June 4, 2007, the Jackson Police Department had also forgotten something after visiting the scene of domestic violence on Parkwood Place in North Jackson.

They left behind the mallet that George Bell III had used to bash the head of 125-pound Heather Spencer'the hammer that delivered the mind-blowing agony caused by a 230-pound boyfriend who pumped iron frequently at The Courthouse.

Early that morning, around 7, George had come to Heather's house, which she had owned a couple years by then, found her spare key hidden outside and let himself in. Dressed in jeans and a gray shirt, he brought with him the kind of hard rubber mallet with a large round head that you pound a fence into the ground with. Then 32--his birthday was June 21--George went into her bedroom as she slept on her right side, started beating her head and shoulders with the mallet with one hand and strangling her with the other. She woke up screaming in pain, with a monster she loved delivering the blows.

'I woke up violently and began to fight him off and screamed for him to stop. He also tried to strangle me and keep me from breathing. I was bleeding all over my bed ... ' she wrote later on a police complaint intake form.

'Just leave me alone!' she screamed.

A loud crash woke up Heather's roommate. The young woman, who does not wish to be identified, ran to Heather's door, saw him standing over her and pulled him off, screamed at him to stop.

'What are you doing!?!' 'Get out!' 'Leave her alone!'

George dropped the hammer next to the bed and ran out of the house, jumping into Heather's green Toyota Camry and speeding away. The roommate called the police and gathered up Heather, who was bleeding profusely, and put her in her own car to drive her to the University Medical Center emergency room.

The police came to UMC, which is required to call the police when victims of knife or gunshot wounds show up, but doesn't have a specific policy governing beatings with objects. UMC would not say whether they called the police about the George attack, but Heather's mother, Linda Francomb, said the roommate called the authorities. 'The police were there the entire time,' Linda told the Jackson Free Press this week.

At that point, Heather wasn't sure what the weapon had been, though doctors said there was definitely a weapon. 'No one's fists could have done this,' one of them said.

Heather's head required 'three rows of staples in her head from front to back,' as Officer John Young wrote in a later report. Her brown hair covered her 57 staples. She also had a finger splint on her left hand and a thick spring wrap on her right wrist.

Officers asked Heather if she knew who attacked her. 'Yes,' she said, and then named her boyfriend, George Bell. Officer Frank Williams filed a report listing 'aggravated assault''Mississippi's version of attempted murder'which is a serious felony. His supervisor, Tina L. Wallace, signed off on it. It listed George's address as 2906 St. State St., the upscale Fondren Corner building.

Later that day, police went with the roommate to the house, investigating the scene. She pointed to the hammer sticking out from under the bed, saying, 'It must be what he used.' However, police did not take the mallet for evidence.

Heather, 28, stayed in the hospital until early afternoon and then went to her grandparents' house. Around 7 or 8 that night, Linda deplaned from Cedar, Mich., to take care of her only daughter.

In Jackson, the mother found that a desolate, injured, heartbroken woman had replaced the optimistic, confident, happy daughter who had brought her new boyfriend to a wedding the September before where he had met her mother and other family.

'He seemed to be crazy about Heather, and just seemed like a nice guy,' Linda said.

But after the hammer attack, Heather's belief in the man she loved was shaken. She couldn't understand it, telling her mother that he had never been abusive to her before.

'We were talking about getting married,' Heather told her mother that night. 'How do you think I feel? This man that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, when just out of the blue... .' She didn't finish her statement. She didn't have to.

The next day, Linda went to Heather's house, and she and the roommate put the hammer in a plastic bag and called the police, who returned on June 7 to retrieve the assault weapon. The June 4 police report had a cross marked through the 'evidence/property' section; the new report had 'rubber head hammer' logged. That report, too, stated that the crime was aggravated assault, a felony.

A 'Simple Assault'?
The young couple was set to go on a cruise a couple of weeks after the attack; instead, Heather asked police to arrest him. As soon as she was strong enough'the police report says June 7--she and her mother went to Precinct 4 and filed a complaint against George. Under the law, she didn't have to make a complaint for him to be charged--especially for such a violent act--but victim statements help convince authorities reluctant to try cases to make arrests and present a case for prosecution. On June 7, Heather wanted George prosecuted, Linda says, and took her swollen head full of staples there to make sure it happened.

But, for reasons that are unclear, the police decided to downgrade the attack the same day to a domestic-violence simple assault, a misdemeanor. Det. Kent Daniels filed a June 12 report saying: 'The Complainant was contacted and advised that the charge of Aggravated Assault was being reduced to Simple Assault. The change was made because of the assault not being life threaten. The Complainant was given a case card for Simple Assault and she filed a misdemeanor affidavit against the suspect George Bell on the day of Thursday June 7, 2007.' (sic)

(More recently, Daniels made the news by being assigned as one of two bodyguards for new D.A.-elect Robert Smith.)

A city affidavit that day, with 'felony' handwritten on it, stated that George did 'assault, beat strike one Heather Spencer, girlfriend, by hitting her on the had, strangling her causing bodily injury.' The next day, a bench warrant was issued for George's arrest, signed by Municipal Court Judge Jennifer Studebaker.

JPD has not provided the records of the June 4 attack to the family or the media. The Jackson Free Press acquired the sheath of police documents (PDF, 3 MB) from another source.

However, George would not be arrested for his actions of that morning. He had skipped town in Heather's Camry, which he left in the parking lot of the Vicksburg Home Depot, calling the roommate to tell her where they could find it. Some of his friends say that he then went to Mexico, but Linda isn't sure. 'For four or five days, no one knew where he was. His mother says she didn't know where he was. I don't know if that's the case or not, but ',' Linda said, letting her words trail off.

George ended up in drug rehabilitation in Oklahoma, where he would stay until he returned home the weekend before Sept. 11.

In the days after the June attack, Linda believed Heather would leave George. The family told her over and over again that his behavior just wasn't normal--even if it was drug-related. At the time, Heather believed that George was taking drugs containing PCP and angel dust, and he used steroids to 'juice' up his muscles.

Heather hoped it was the drugs that beat her up, not the man she loved. So she set out to prove that to herself, getting online, researching the drugs he was taking. 'I think, more than anything, she was trying to convince herself and the rest of us that it was the drugs that did it and not him,' Linda said.

Her mother said that Heather didn't wear rose-colored glasses, that she was level-headed and very bright and sure of herself most of the time. 'If she felt within her heart that it was right, then she has behind it 100 percent.'

In the weeks after her boyfriend's fury left 57 staples in her head, Heather decided that her attacker would get better if she helped him. She was behind George 100 percent.

The Way They Were
Mary Heather Spencer met George Bell III when she was working at Wells Fargo Financial, which serviced clients of his used-car dealership in Florence, IW Motors. They started dating early in 2006, her mother said. 'She seemed really happy.'

Heather clearly wanted to be. Her MySpace page shows a profile of a young woman--'most beautiful' at Northwest Rankin and a basketball player--with a lot of love to give and who liked to live. Her 'loves' were big and small: martinis, sushi, Diet Coke, jewelry, purses, movies, bowling, getting flowers (especially Gerber daisies) and hearing 'I love you.' She liked to plan and be organized, she said, although she was always late. ('It's not my fault, really. It's in my genes.')

She listened to Phish, Ani Defranco and Dave Matthews; her favorite books were Jane Austen's classic 'Pride and Prejudice,' Elizabeth Wurtzel's hip, smash memoir 'Prozac Nation,' Thomas More's world-changing 'Utopia' and Tom Robbins' clever novel about hideous men,'Still Life with Woodpecker.'

And Harry Potter books.

She got a business degree from Belhaven College and attended Meadowbrook Church of Christ.

George was from a famous family by Jackson standards'his father of the same name runs a well-known rug-cleaning business, and his mother is an executive at the Mississippi Business Journal who directed the lucrative 'Leading Businesswomen' and 'Top 40 Under 40' competitions (who is now on leave, sources say). Friends say his parents split up 20 years ago and weren't close.

He, too, was a businessman, if a struggling one, with his own car dealership. Heather soon became part of that business and went to work for him down at IW Motors at 2873 Hwy. 49-South. But as George's drug problem worsened--he allegedly was doing cocaine, steroids and perhaps other drugs--his business faltered, reaching a crisis point in the weeks after the attack on Heather. His business closed while he was in Oklahoma, but there was still a mess to clean up.

While George was in rehab and after her mother returned home to Michigan, Heather started communicating with both George and his mother, Robbie Bell, who reportedly went to great lengths to protect her son. Despite reports that Heather moved in with the mother during that time, Linda says her daughter continued to live in her home, but went to Robbie Bell's house at 4652 Trawick Drive every day to try to clear up George's financial mess, which was already under investigation because he hadn't presented titles to the cars he sold to the Mississippi Tax Commission.

'What Heather was doing the whole time he was in rehab was trying to salvage what was left of his dealership,' Linda said. She worked in a room in Robbie Bell's house filled with boxes of paperwork leftover from the business; she'd stay until 11 or midnight trying to reconcile titles, contacting creditors, and talking to finance companies and attorneys across the country.

Heather would text her mother to say that she wished someone would give her some relief, that she was so tired. 'I don't know if I can keep going,' she'd say.

But she did, and gradually worked toward a reconciliation with the man who hurt her when he returned without the demon drugs in his system, the drugs she blamed for his attack on her. Friends of the couple also say that she visited him in rehab and that he would often text her; he was allowed a cell phone because he was a business owner. He, presumably, lobbied her to take him back.

'I knew she had it on her mind. ' She was just trying to prove to herself and her family that (drugs) caused him to do it, that it was just a one-time incident,' Linda said.

The family pushed back, though. 'Well, even if that were the case, how do you know it's not going to happen again?' Linda asked her. 'He has a drug problem. How do you know he's not going to relapse and do the same thing again?'

Still, Linda believed that Heather was not welcoming him back with open arms. Her mother remembers her saying: 'I'm not going to jump back in and do anything. I'm going to give it time. I'm not going to get back into the same kind of relationship we had before. I'm just going to take my time.'

'The 11th Day of September'
At some point, Heather seemed to decide that George shouldn't go to jail when he returned. About a month before he would return, on Aug. 10, George Bell's attorney, James L. Kelly of Brandon, mailed a copy of a 'voluntary statement to drop charges' that Heather had signed Aug. 8 in front of Monica Baldwin, a Rankin County notary public.

'I would like to drop all charges I have filed or caused to be instituted against George Bell III. ... I do not believe George Bell III to be guilty of any crime against me and because he has and continues to receive treatment for his problems. I do not wish to see him prosecuted. As I have stated to the police before, I do not believe that George ever intended to harm me. He was out of his mind and did not know what he was doing. I have never seen him that way before and have not since,' Heather wrote, unbeknownst to her mother.

She asked that 'authorities not pursue the case' and thanked JPD for the 'courteous and helpful' assistance they had provided her to date. JPD later released her statement, but not the cover letter or other police documents or reports about the initial felony charge.

Attorney Kelly's cover letter began: 'Please be advised that I represent George Bell III. Enclosed please find copy of a notarized REQUEST TO DROP CHARGES executed on the 08th day of August, 2007 by the former complainant, Mary Heather Spencer.'

Perhaps unbeknownst to Heather, authorities did not need her complaint to file charges against George. Under state law, if a victim drops charges against the perpetrator, JPD can become the official complainant and pursue the case. Prosecutors say they do not like pursuing such cases without the victim's assistance, but there was other evidence in this case, from the original police report and interviews, the roommate as witness, the medical report and perhaps even the 'request' she filed before he returned home on Sept. 8.

She also might not have known that the bench warrant was still active, languishing as a misdemeanor domestic-violence charge. And George would indeed be charged with that crime--the bench warrant now has a 'proof of service' that it was served to George on 'the 11th day of Sept.,' the day police arrested him for beating her to death with a flashlight in his mother's home the night before.

Precious, Sacred Scenes Unfold
Heather Spencer's funeral came on a rainy Friday the 14th as her boyfriend sat in the 'women's jail' in downtown Jackson on 24-hour suicide watch, a day after he pled 'not guilty' for capital murder due to the torn condition of the victim's body, indicating a brutal sexual assault before George used the flashlight to extinguish the life out of her.

Hundreds of her friends, and her family, and members of the community, crowded into Ott and Lee Funeral Home in Brandon to mourn the forced passing of a young woman born March 10, 1979. George's friends say that, during the open-casket funeral, he was closed in a dark cell, wearing a paper jumpsuit, with a cold metal cot to lie on. He had nothing to do but remember.

After the people crowding the chapel sang the old hymn 'Precious Memories'--'Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul'--testimonies began. A male friend of Heather talked about how, just two days before she was murdered, she had made a big pan of macaroni-and-cheese and brought it to his house. His 82-year-old father had died, and she was there for him.

A girlfriend cried as she challenged the people there to take up her friend's torch: 'Right now, Heather is probably saying, 'Y'all just need to move on and try and save the world like I was doing!'' She was planning to use her new-found drug expertise to help other addicts get their lives straight.

Her brother Xan Spencer, who now lives in North Carolina, told about the practical jokestress his sister could be--using his password to a Web site to alter his picture, giving him a big belly hanging over his belt.

Her father, Dan Spencer of Byram, showed the most raw emotion, sobbing as he said that Heather was there for everybody, and thought she could fix people she loved. He said people used to call her 'Little Dan' because she was so much like him. He remembered her saying as a child, 'I want choffie,' when he was drinking coffee, and how early she learned her ABCs. 'A for Apple, C for Cat '.' Then the emotion overcame him, and he had to sit down.

Then a preacher who knew the family in Indianola stood to say that he remembered a young, light woman who could beat him at horseshoes because she was so athletic. 'I remember each year at church camp her being faster than all of the little boys,' he said. He then read her own words from her MySpace page: 'I tend to be kind of idealistic, so instead of seeing things the way that they are ' I see them the way I want them to be.'

Heather was buried at Floral Hills Memory Gardens in Pearl with the crowd maneuvering deep mud to gather around the grave site. Before she was lowered into the ground, the preacher asked everyone to say the 23rd Psalm in Heather's honor:

'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.'

The narratives and details in this story were taken from witness accounts and police documents. Neither the police or the accused killers were available to address the details of the alleged crimes provided by witnesses, family and friends. All details should be considered 'alleged.' The JFP invites interviews with anyone involved. Call 601.362.6121 ext. 5 if you have further information to add to those ongoing stories.

Mary Heather Spencer's June Police Report (PDF, 3 MB)

What Can You Do?
Are You An Abuser?
Safety Plan

Previous Comments

ID
82051
Comment

But, for reasons that are unclear, the police decided to downgrade the attack the same day to a domestic-violence simple assault, a misdemeanor. Det. Kent Daniels filed a June 12 report saying: "The Complainant was contacted and advised that the charge of Aggravated Assault was being reduced to Simple Assault. The change was made because of the assault not being life threaten. The Complainant was given a case card for Simple Assault and she filed a misdemeanor affidavit against the suspect George Bell on the day of Thursday June 7, 2007." (sic) That was the first thing I noticed in the pdf's! This astute detective decides this crime wasn't life threatening so it becomes a misdemeanor SIMPLE ASSAULT! (capitalized just as he did for Ms Spencer!!!) Who made him God? Now you find out he is transfered to guard the DA. Gee, that doesn't taint him now does it? I don't think Det. Kent wanted to pursue this case. Is he lazy? Is it because it is GBIII? Maybe this is one of the mysterious "doctoring of crime stats" that we heard about from Melton, Nesbitt, Allen, Anderson, and the Ledge? A simple assault doesn't show up on the FBI UCR like a felony does. Hmmm? What up with that guys? Who's doctoring crime stats now? How can being attacked with a hammer to the head while asleep not be "life threatening?" Where is the outrage from the editors and radio talking heads now?

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-09-26T16:42:44-06:00
ID
82052
Comment

I think they just found out, Pike. Interesting, eh?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-09-26T16:54:26-06:00
ID
82053
Comment

Do you mean Geraldo from my other thread post? This is very troubling if this is how domestic abuse cases are handled in Jackson, MS. "I would like to drop all charges I have filed or caused to be instituted against George Bell III. ... I do not believe George Bell III to be guilty of any crime against me and because he has and continues to receive treatment for his problems. I do not wish to see him prosecuted. As I have stated to the police before, I do not believe that George ever intended to harm me. He was out of his mind and did not know what he was doing. I have never seen him that way before and have not since," Heather wrote, unbeknownst to her mother. Can Mr. Bell's attorney show me where Ms. Spencer stated to the police that she didn't believe GBIII intended to hurt her. I've read the police reports a couple of times and I don't see it. She does say that she didn't know 'why' he attacked her. Also, where does the first cop get off on downplaying 50 STAPLES IN YOUR HEAD to "stitches in the top of her head to close up several lacerations" when he is writing up the report? This is horrible. What happened to Ms. Shavers is more tragic because the police directly could have prevented the shooting.

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-09-26T18:46:46-06:00
ID
82054
Comment

George dropped the hammer next to the bed and ran out of the house, jumping into Heather's green Toyota Camry and speeding away. Where is the breaking and entering charge or at least trespassing since he "found" her hidden key, and let himself into her house - that she owned? Where is the carjacking charge for taking her Camry? WTF is going on around here with our police?

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-09-26T19:11:39-06:00
ID
82055
Comment

Oh, I see what you are saying ladd! 1...2...3... Commence outrage!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-09-26T19:25:01-06:00
ID
82056
Comment

This is one of the most beautifully written articles I've read and a very, very long time. I cried while reading it because it was written in a way that makes you actually "see" what was going on. Thank you, JFP, for a job well done!

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-09-26T20:14:38-06:00
ID
82057
Comment

Oh my God. Doris Shavers was killed on her daughter's birthday. This article reduced me to tears, Doris was a mother and a daughter, Heather was a daughter and a sister. There is a total lack of accountability in the Jackson Police Department and we are seeing this every day. And the "chief" basically gets a free ride. Where's the outrage for Chief Anderson that the "Clarion Liar" so easily issued out against Chief Moore, a well trained & professional law enforcement officer? Where's the criticism, the outrage, where?

Author
lanier77
Date
2007-09-27T07:54:25-06:00
ID
82058
Comment

I sure hope the primary Meltonites, who supported him so they could get whatever windfall have come their way, are comfortable with all this blood on their hands. So far no outrage, only that the press is actually reporting on the kid who was shot by the cop. Somehow, your not supposed to report THAT news or else your trying the cop in the court of public opinion. Please... that is so nazi!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-09-27T08:10:28-06:00
ID
82059
Comment

There is now a page on Jackpedia titled Help for Domestic Abuse with resources for victims and abusers. Please pass the info on.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2007-09-27T08:46:39-06:00
ID
82060
Comment

Again I say, The Chief needs a Mayor and the Mayor needs a Chief. The citizens of Jackson need people who are not looing for their own personal pots of goal. Candy Hagwood did a wonderful job pulling these cases together and exposing the link of poor policeing and the protection that some people get while others suffer. The JPD has a lot of blood on its hand and there must be an atonement for the negative actions of all involved. Sherlene's report of "NO WRONG DOING" is for the birds!

Author
justjess
Date
2007-09-27T09:06:28-06:00
ID
82061
Comment

Agreed, justjess. Candy Hagwood has a very, very bright future as a writer. Keep an eye out for more rich stories from her coming soon. Also, Ronni Mott turned herself inside out on this story. She did the amazing interviews with Heather's mother. God rest both these women's souls. Let's use their deaths to help other women. That's the least we can do for them.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-09-27T09:11:41-06:00
ID
82062
Comment

Great narrative. Reads like a movie. I think this story should be read aloud whenever you have the domestic violence forum.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-09-27T11:26:42-06:00
ID
82063
Comment

Great read! Both of these women seem like they had so much to offer. :( It is unbelievable how the JPD handled these situations...just scary.

Author
ellen
Date
2007-09-27T15:15:37-06:00
ID
82064
Comment

Folks, check it out. This story and Nathan's artwork is the featured piece on the front page of Altweeklies right now. (Will change, so hurry.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-09-28T09:37:40-06:00
ID
82065
Comment

I see it! Great job on the artwork and to all of you who put the story together!

Author
ellen
Date
2007-09-28T10:20:08-06:00
ID
82066
Comment

Ladd, Mott and Hagwood, so your JFP bloggers aren't the only folks who thought this was G R E A T! A way to go Altweeklies!

Author
justjess
Date
2007-09-28T12:21:50-06:00
ID
82067
Comment

Ronnie Mott wrote in the side-bar article "First, lose your judgmental attitude. Don't take control of the situation yourself by calling the police if she doesn't want you to." If someone would have taken control maybe these two women would be alive today. Am I missing the point?

Author
Truthseeker
Date
2007-09-30T10:17:59-06:00
ID
82068
Comment

Somebody did call the police in both these cases, apparently--and in neither case did it end up helping keep the woman alive, and arguably they could have had they handled the evidence correctly, pursued a guy on the lam and not reduced the charges to a misdemeanor, which wouldn't be taken as seriously by anyone. However, I see your point about that particular piece of advice. It does seem odd to apply it across the board. It came from an expert, though.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-09-30T12:46:27-06:00
ID
82069
Comment

This was some of the best reporting on these incidents that has appeared in local media. But I don't understand the anti-gun screed haphazardly inserted into the narrative. Where do you get statistics like "Women who own guns are three times more likely to be killed by guns" and how was it derived? Getting gun "facts" from places like the Brady Campaign is a bit like researching Judaism with Goebbels. Why not the anti-rubber mallet or the anti-flashlight campaign? Bell had a gun, but didn't use it--how are guns the deciding factor? A tool is only made into a weapon by the intention of the user. Some of the statements in the piece actually read as if the authors believe that simple machines have mind control powers, ie."... [people] often use them in domestic situations, meaning that a lot of people without criminal records kill or seriously injure people close to them in heated moments of passion because guns are so readily available." What?! Reread after that "because". People don't commit crimes of passion "because guns are so readily available"; they commit them because they can't control themselves--people who can't control themselves generally prove that they are people who belong in prison or mental hospitals. You imply that all of the recent pro-self-defense laws (see I can do it too) are bad, yet you provide no evidence that any of these changes affected the cases at hand--this is just poor argumentative technique. Why didn't you delve into possible real violations of firearms laws? Again, did any of the witnesses offer to sign a witness statement on the brandishing and firing in the city limits? Was the time in jail that Phillips bragged about for a felony (I don't know if there is misdemeanor charge for drug sales)? If so, Phillips background should've been run during the first call out, and he should've been arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Also, if he was a felon, then somewhere some major felonies were committed at the pawn shop where he bought one of his guns--now there is a real story! -Chad

Author
Chad Moorer
Date
2007-09-30T23:34:58-06:00
ID
82070
Comment

Chad, did any of the officers ask the witness to sign an affidavit? Did any of the witnesses know that was even an option? If they were given the option, then where they told to come to the precinct the next morning? These questions need to be answered before you begin to either place blame on the resident witness or on the JPD.

Author
malt
Date
2007-10-01T06:56:32-06:00
ID
82071
Comment

Chad, The statistics came from Internet sites such as the American Bar Association, the American Institute on Domestic Violence, the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and other non-partisan sources. The statistics are readily available; we didn't have to go to the Brady site. Mississippi has some of the most lenient gun laws in the nation. That is fact. In 2005, we were No. 5 in the nation for number of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender homicides. That's also a fact. As to Phillips' record, his family relayed the information about his possible prison time, as we stated. We will be following up.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2007-10-01T08:41:35-06:00
ID
82072
Comment

WOW!!!! Many thanks to the JFP staff, which took part in this effort. Makes me thankful to know that there is some WONDERFUL!! reporters who REALLY care. I don't think anyone could have put all the pieces together as well as you guys did. Both sides of Heather's family are very dear to us back in the Delta. Thanks again for bringing more attention to this.

Author
JMK
Date
2007-10-01T08:54:30-06:00
ID
82073
Comment

I'll back up what Ronni said. Stating facts about gun violence is not bias. It's just fact. That doesn't mean that crimes don't happen by other means, as we see later in the story. But sugarcoating one serious problem--that guns make it easier for people to kill people quickly--doesn't help anything. As for the witnesses, I don't believe the police asked them to sign an affidavit that night about brandishing. However, they seem MORE than willing to testify about the firearms violation they witnessed. That's all in the story. As for Phillips, we're told he didn't have a record in Hinds County, but we relayed what the witnesses recall him saying to them. And thank you very much, JMK. From the overwhelming response so far, I'm hopeful that this story will help at least one victim not be a victim, or one abuser get help. That's what I pray for.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-10-01T09:21:01-06:00
ID
82074
Comment

If it came from any Brady people it does't hold water, and is just bias. Also, they never talk about all the lives firearms save either. Great story except for the anti-gun stuff though. www.nrams.com

Author
Cliff Cargill
Date
2007-10-01T09:42:46-06:00
ID
82075
Comment

It's not "anti-gun" stuff. It's a statement of fact. Sorry it's not politically correct enough, but we don't pull facts because they might tick off activists on various sides of an issue. Fact: Guns make it easier to kill people. Many people are dead because a gun was chosen in the heat of passion. If you are going to be against the regulation of guns, you can't ignore this fact. You have to justify it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-10-01T09:51:31-06:00
ID
82076
Comment

I'm not "anti-gun" but I can't see how either of these women would have been any safer if they had owned a handgun. The guy who killed the mom of the little girl sure sounds like he had issues, I'm curious if he was being treated by some mental health outfit, ie was he taking his medicine, etc.

Author
GLewis
Date
2007-10-01T10:03:15-06:00
ID
82077
Comment

Agreed, GLewis. Otherwise, all, let's not dishonor these women by turning this into a political debate about guns. Anybody is welcome to start a gun thread, even copying some of the facts we state above into it if you'd like, and add a link here. Otherwise let's keep comments here about these cases.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-10-01T11:06:17-06:00
ID
82078
Comment

I hear what you're saying Donna. My heart hurts for the women who died... honestly. I don't agree with all the gun comments (I never will.), although I thought the story was fantastic. So yeah, this isn't a gun control thread; I understand. Out of respect to the women who lost their lives, I don't want to turn this into a political debate because these women deserve more. But hey, let's all play by the same moral compass; really. Something has to be done about this insanity known as "domestic violence". I don't know what. My heart can't take any more. ;-( www.nrams.com

Author
Cliff Cargill
Date
2007-10-01T23:00:52-06:00
ID
82079
Comment

Yeah, I know, Cliff. And we've got to shine a light *everywhere* in order to do so.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-10-02T09:41:15-06:00
ID
82080
Comment

I've been traveling the last week so it took me some time to get to this story, but I just wanted to express my admiration to the authors and my thoughts to the victims' families. What happened with these men? Was Henry so humiliated by two visits from the police that he just went insane? Maybe it's wrong to call it insanity if what really happened is that he went into a killing rage. But it's so awful that his first response was to execute the woman he supposedly loved. As for George, did he start using again? It's almost too horrible to think about, that he got out of rehab, raped his devoted girlfriend, and then bludgeoned her to death with a flashlight. Assuming that the charges against him are true, he should spend the rest of his life in prison. Keep up the good work, JFP. These stories were heartbreaking.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-10-04T12:27:07-06:00
ID
82081
Comment

I was just telling this story to my mother, and she said: The moral of this story is that there seems to be no point in fooling with the Jackson Police Department until you have a dead body. What a disastrous state of affairs.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-10-04T12:40:43-06:00
ID
82082
Comment

I AM DORIS SHAVERS SISTER-IN-LAW. IT IS A TRAGIC WHAT HAPPENED TO HER. SHE WAS A LOVEABLE PERSON. DORIS WOULD HELP ANYBODY. IT IS A SHAME WHEN WE CALLED OUT TO THE POLICE BEFORE SHE GOT KILLED, THEY TURNED THEIR BACK ON US. WE HAVE ALOT OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS. NO ONE IS WILLING TO ANSWER THEM FOR US. CAN SOMEONE JUST ANSWER THE QUESTIONS THAT HER KIDS AND MOTHER NEED ANSWERS TO? WOULD THE OUTCOME BEEN DIFFERENT IF WE LIVED IN NORTHEAST JACKSON OR SOMEWHERE LIKE THAT?

Author
nsanders
Date
2007-10-06T14:47:02-06:00
ID
82083
Comment

I live in Northeast Jackson, and several years ago when my niece and her newborn child where at my house hiding from her abusive husband I call the JPD and so did several of my neighbors. They never showed up. So yes I could see this happening in NE Jackson.

Author
malt
Date
2007-10-06T15:23:32-06:00
ID
82084
Comment

I am so weary of knowing that these stories happen again and again. I am out of town this week in Houston, and just this week already met three women who either were in abusive relationships right now or had been in the past. Just in the regular course of being on a business trip. It blows my mind how much of this is around us, and strengthens my resolve to help raise money for domestic violence prevention.

Author
Izzy
Date
2007-10-06T15:39:46-06:00
ID
82085
Comment

I was talking to a few female friends today about domestic violence, and I was amazed that some of them had been through it themselves. I'm thankful that they were able to get out of those relationships. They are doing so well that I never would have known that they had those experiences unless they told me.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-10-06T18:19:12-06:00
ID
167300
Comment

The moral of this story is NOT the police department's failure to do anything..it's that both of those women allowed nutjobs in their lives! YOu cannot fix crazy. The dude beat the one girl with a hammer...now doris..that was out of the blue. I just wish women would stop trying to 'fix' men. You can't fix crazy, violent and stupid. Respect YOURSELF. Protect YOURSELF. Fix YOURSELF. God help us.

Author
Chris Carpenter Oursler
Date
2012-03-12T02:43:46-06:00

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