Warrants: Woman found dead was suffocated

awomack@macon.comOctober 10, 2012 

A Macon woman found dead in her north Macon home early Saturday was suffocated, according to arrest warrants filed Wednesday.

Macon police charged three people with murder in the death of 58-year-old Gail Spencer after an autopsy showed that her death was a homicide.

Bond was denied Wednesday for Tracy Michelle Jones, 38, of Macon, who was arrested Tuesday, and for step-siblings 18-year-old Michael Brett Kelly of Macon and 23-year-old Courtney Nicole Kelly of Warner Robins, who were arrested Wednesday.

Macon attorney Calder Pinkston confirmed that Spencer and Jones were legal secretaries at his office.

Spencer’s neighbor, Lori Dalton, called police about 3 a.m. Saturday when she and her husband returned from watching a sporting event in Augusta, according to a police report.

Dalton told police she called Spencer between 6 and 6:30 a.m. Friday to arrange for Spencer to move the Daltons’ dog inside when Spencer returned home from work.

When the Daltons returned home, their dog was still outside. Lori Dalton also noticed her neighbor’s rear blinds were closed and that the lights were on.

Concerned, she called police.

When police arrived at Spencer’s house, at 3475 Stinsonville Road, “the house was secure,” Police Chief Mike Burns said during a Wednesday news conference.

An officer knocked on the front and back doors to no avail.

Dalton told police it was unusual for Spencer to lock her dead bolt.

The doors and windows felt unusually cold to the touch, another thing Dalton said was odd, since Spencer was cold-natured, according to the report.

After firefighters helped police enter the house through a front window, officers found Spencer dead in a back bedroom.

“There was no visible sign of injuries,” Burns said. “Looking at the scene, we noticed some things that were out of place, not necessarily way out of place.”

At the time, police thought there was a “high possibility” Spencer had committed suicide, he said without elaborating.

Officers treated the case as a homicide until an autopsy could be performed.

Tuesday, besides receiving the autopsy results, police found Spencer’s car in the parking lot of Porterfield Baptist Church on Allen Road, about 10 miles away, police Sgt. Melanie Hofmann said.

Jones and the Kellys appeared Wednesday afternoon in Bibb County Magistrate Court.

Jones and Michael Kelly waived their right to a commitment hearing, an opportunity to hear police testify about why they were arrested.

Crying, Courtney Kelly told the judge she didn’t understand why she had been arrested and requested a hearing. That hearing is scheduled for Oct. 24.

Until about two weeks ago, Courtney Kelly lived with her grandmother, Rosalind Celetano, in Warner Robins.

Celetano, who is battling cancer, said Courtney Kelly lived with her for a couple of months and was a big help around the house. The arrangement was going well until Kelly disappeared a couple of weeks ago with Celetano’s credit card and laptop computer, Celetano said.

She got the news about the murder charge early Wednesday morning.

“I was shocked,” Celetano said as she stood in her garage. “I’ve been crying most of the morning.”

Kelly was essentially homeless when she moved in with her, Celetano said.

Kelly’s mother, Michelle Wells, didn’t want to talk when reached by phone Wednesday.

“All I can say is I love my daughter and she was a very good girl,” Wells said.

Some of Jones’ kin gathered Wednesday at a farmhouse that predates nearby Lake Tobesofkee where Jones once lived with her grandmother. They were trying to make sense of the news of Jones’ arrest.

In the living room, the TV was on, and along a wall was a dollhouse full of Barbies.

Jones’ 91-year-old grandmother, Marilu Jones, who helped raise her, had tears in her eyes.

“I can’t understand how in the world she could have done this,” Marilu Jones said. “She’d been a good girl. ... It’s such a big surprise. I would never dream this would happen. Never.”

Tracy Jones’ father, Hiram Jones, said, “We don’t have a clue. ... We haven’t heard any details.”

Hiram Jones said his daughter had “taken paralegal courses and all” and had worked for local attorneys in recent years.

Pinkston said he hired Jones about a year ago. She came with recommendations from other law firms.

Spencer, who lived about a mile from Pinkston’s office, had been his office manager and legal secretary for 13 years.

When she died, she left a desk decorated with a montage of photos of her two grandchildren and her Shih Tzu, Lola.

The doting grandmother had wrapped presents stowed underneath the desk awaiting her granddaughter’s birthday later this month, Pinkston said.

“She just lived for them,” he said of Spencer’s grandchildren.

Mary Haskins described her mother-in-law as a “genuine, super, down-to-earth, organized” woman who “would do anything for anyone.”

Spencer enjoyed gardening and loved to travel. She dreamed of vacationing in Europe, Haskins said.

Pinkston said Spencer was a cheerful, hardworking woman who took pride in taking care of clients during the often-stressful process of closing a home loan.

“What we do every day is often the biggest transaction in someone’s life,” Pinkston said.

Spencer regularly worked nights and Saturdays on her own accord, sometimes bringing Lola, to make sure her work was complete.

One year she stayed until 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve to help in a home loan closing because clients wanted to move in on Christmas Day.

“There’s just nothing to describe what a quality individual she was,” Pinkston said.

Staff writers Joe Kovac Jr. and Wayne Crenshaw contributed to this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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