Floyd County murder investigation sparks contention and confusion

Family and friends of Amber Spradlin are searching for justice.
Family and friends of Amber Spradlin are searching for justice.(WYMT)
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 7:38 PM EDT
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PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - Floyd County’s request for special prosecution in the Amber Spradlin murder investigation has been declined by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office.

Spradlin was killed nearly three months ago at a home on Arkansas Creek Road in Floyd County. Since her death, no arrests have been made. Concerns about attempted cover-ups and community connections have been cited by the family and community leaders. Following news conferences, protests and cries to the public, a letter was written to the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office by Spradlin’s cousin.

In the letter dated August 22, Dr. Debbie Hall asks the attorney general’s office to provide some “oversight” into the investigation. In the letter, she shared concerns that the person or people she believes to be responsible may need more eyes on the case to avoid professional and political ties impacting the integrity of the investigation.

In the letter, Dr. Hall acknowledged the “tremendous amount of evidence” involved in the investigation, and said she believes the agencies are doing their best to get it all tested and processed. However, at that time, she believed more oversight could be beneficial.

“I would like to request that, if any way possible, some oversight is provided to the investigation of the case,” Hall wrote. “I have faith in the work the KSP is conducting but am concerned about all the closeness and social ties Dr. McKinney has with local statewide politicians and I’m concerned Amber will not get justice for this horrendous crime perpetrated against her.”

Last week, Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams said he was informed about the letter and wanted to support the family by sending in a letter from the county. Since Hall was seeking oversight, Williams believed the best way to see that would be through the appointment of a special prosecutor.

He sent his request on September 8, and he asked the attorney general for “the involvement of an outside, special prosecutor.” In his letter, he said he was acting on behalf of Spradlin’s community and her family.

“This situation is not typical and the public needs reassurance,” he wrote. “There is a persisting and growing anxiety that the perpetrators, if arrested, will never receive the harsh penalty they deserve. This cannot happen.”

Once Williams’ letter was made public, Commonwealth’s Attorney Brent Turner, the Floyd County attorney in charge of the prosecution for the investigation, shared his disapproval. He said there was no reason for the county to be interfering, and he said Williams’ plea would only serve as an effort to “obstruct the investigation.”

According to Turner, who sent a letter to Williams Friday, Spradlin’s family does not want a special prosecutor.

Hall shared a statement from the family in the Justice for Amber Facebook group the Friday night and posted photos of Turner’s letter to Williams.

“Amber’s family stands firmly behind Brent Turner and KSP. We all have confidence in their abilities and their integrity,” Hall said in the post. “Robbie Williams has no business in our business. He has done enough!”

On Tuesday, a response from the AG’s office denied the county’s request for a special prosecutor.

“We appreciate your concerns for the impartial administration of justice in this case. The authority of the Office of the Attorney General to assume jurisdiction of a case or to appoint a special prosecutor is generally limited by KRS 15.200(1). A county judge/executive is not one of the officials specified in the statute as someone with the authority to request the appointment of a special prosecutor in a matter,” the letter states. “The circumstances do not at present appear to call for a special prosecutor appointment, therefore the Office respectfully declines your request.”

In the letter, the office thanks Williams for submitting his request and for attaching a copy of the letter sent by Hall on August 22, but according to the AG’s office, Dr. Hall sent a different email Monday, “expressing the family’s confidence in the handling of the case” by Turner’s office.

In Monday’s email, which Hall shared with WYMT, the family made clear their standing:

“I am cousin to and advocate for Amber Spradlin. I am speaking on behalf of the family. We do not want a special prosecutor. We have confidence in Brent Turner’s ability to charge and prosecute this case. He has worked closely with KSP since day one. He has kept the family informed and been available to answer our questions. We feel it would be a step backward and would hamper progress if someone else were appointed to prosecute this case.”

Turner said the decision to decline the request was wise, but he was not surprised.

“There was never any question that this request would be denied, because Robbie Williams has no more authority to request a special prosecutor than the dog catcher does. Additionally, my office has no conflict, and the family is adamant that they want my office to continue handling the case,” Turner wrote in a statement to WYMT. “The county judge needs to worry about doing his own job. If we need a load of gravel, or if the toilet gets stopped up at the senior citizens center, we’ll call him. But when it comes to murder cases, he needs to leave that to the team of professional investigators and prosecutors to handle.”

Williams said the decision to decline the county’s request is not something he supports, and he was never intending to “go behind the family’s back.” He said his support letter was an attempt to offer an extra push for more oversight.

“My request for a special prosecutor was made in support of Dr. Hall’s letter to the Attorney General’s office, dated August 22, 2023,” Williams told WYMT. “Many in our community have expressed the same concerns. If Dr. Hall now feels an independent prosecutor is no longer needed, then she has the right to withdraw her request. But it does not change my perception that an outside prosecutor- based on all the various circumstances- would provide helpful and needed assurance to our community that justice will be served.”

Hall remains adamant that the family does not want special prosecution. She said the original letter she penned, which Williams claims was his inspiration for his own, was intended as a request for oversight, not special prosecution, and she felt “set up” to see it used by Williams.

“It was never meant for his eyes and I never requested his assistance in this matter,” Dr. Hall told WYMT.

Hall said she sent the aforementioned email to the AG’s office Monday to clear up any misconceptions.

“I did write a letter to AG Cameron, but that was to voice my concern about possible corruption on the opposing side. Our family has the utmost confidence and faith in Brent Turner and respectfully request he be allowed to remain prosecuting attorney for our case,” she said in the email. “If my intentions were misconstrued please forgive me and disregard the letter.”