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Nine killers with Eastern Kentucky ties eligible for new parole hearings under policy change

Under the policy, Donald Bartley, Clawvern Jacobs, Marshall Brooks, Jr. Jeffrey Coffey, Michael...
Under the policy, Donald Bartley, Clawvern Jacobs, Marshall Brooks, Jr. Jeffrey Coffey, Michael Fugate, Charles Hensley, Mark Kidd, Roy Pearce and Stephanie Spitser will all be eligible for parole in the next 10 years.(Kentucky Department of Corrections)
Published: May. 19, 2021 at 11:02 AM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - With news recently coming out about a policy change from the Kentucky Parole Board involving new parole hearings for convicted murderers currently serving life sentences, we decided to look into those with ties to our region.

The change means some of those involved will be eligible for a new parole hearing this year despite earlier decisions that they should stay in prison for the rest of their lives. Officials say others who received serve out orders in the last few years will be eligible for a new parole hearing 10 years after that initial order.

According to documents from the state, nine people were convicted in Eastern Kentucky. Two of those, Donald Bartley and Clawvern Jacobs, will have new hearings scheduled before November 2021. Bartley’s last hearing was held on November 2nd, 2009. Jacobs’ was held on August 21st, 2002.

Bartley was convicted in February 1988 to taking part in the August 1985 murder of Tammy Dee Acker, 23, and the robbery and attempted murder of her father, Dr. Roscoe Acker, 79, in Letcher County. He also pleaded guilty to helping two others in that case, Roger Epperson and Benny Lee Hodge, of helping murder an elderly Jackson County couple in June 1985.

Jacobs was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Alice Lloyd College student Judy Ann Howard in Knott County. Jacobs was sentenced to death twice, but each time it was overturned by the state supreme court. It was one of the first high-profile murder cases WYMT covered after the station started. A dorm on the ALC campus is named after Howard.

Three others, Marshall Brooks, Jr., Jeffrey Coffey and Michael Fugate have had hearings in the last three years and will have new hearings scheduled between 2027 and 2030.

Brooks was convicted for his role in the 1983 murder of Jerry and Cynthia Sprinkles and their three year old daughter Katie in the Kettle Island community of Bell County. Officials believe the case stemmed from a drug deal that went bad. His last hearing was held in May 2017. His next one is scheduled for May 2027.

Coffey was convicted in the August 1995 murder of Matt Coomer, 17, and Taiann Wilson, 15, while they were on a date in Western Pulaski County. His last parole hearing was held in June 2020. His next one is scheduled for June 2030.

Fugate was convicted on two murder charges, one in Perry County in 1982 and another in Knott County in 1987. In the Perry County case, officials say Fugate and two other boys skipped school on September 3rd and went into the woods. We’re told Fugate shot and killed one of the boys, Ricky Collins, and made the other boy Michael Paul White, shoot him too after he had already shot Collins several times. White was given immunity because the medical examiner believed Collins was already dead when he shot him and White testified that he was afraid Fugate would shoot him too if he didn’t comply. Police say Fugate was out on bail in the first case when he murdered Melissa Combs in Sassafras on April 8th, 1987. His last parole hearing was held in December 2019. His next one is scheduled for December 2029.

The remaining four, Charles Hensley, Mark Kidd, Roy Pearce and Stephanie Spitser have also had hearings in the last three years and will have new ones scheduled between 2027 and 2030.

Hensley was convicted of murdering Rocky Haywood in Harlan County in October 2000. Haywood was found dead lying beside his wrecked car on U.S. 119 near his home in Wallins. Prosecutors claim Hensley stabbed Haywood to death after a fight. His last hearing was in November 2020. His next one is scheduled for November 2030.

Kidd was convicted for his role in the murder of Barbourville businessman George Couch in June of 1995. His last parole hearing was in April 2020. His next one is scheduled for April 2030.

Pearce was convicted in December 1994 for the kidnapping and murder of Thomas Toney from Cattlettsburg in Boyd County in July of that same year. His last hearing was in November 2020. His next one is scheduled for November 2030.

Spitser took her 10-year-old stepson Scotty Baker from his school in Clay County back in 1992. Police say she then strangled him before burning and burying his body in Laurel County to hide the crime. Her last parole hearing was in October 2017. Her next one is scheduled for October 2027.

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