It was as half-baked a murder scheme as youll hear of: Hold a Macon law firms office manager hostage in her home while siphoning some money from the firms accounts. Then disappearing to Canada.
Trouble was it wasnt just stealing some money.
It was an estimated $1.3 million.
And it wasnt just holding someone hostage.
What the criminal enterprise lacked in wits, it more than made up for in ruthlessness and calculated brute force.
It left the law firm manager, a doting mother and grandmother, dead in its wake, suffocated with a garbage bag.
Her death sent shock waves through her family and the north Macon neighborhood where she lived.
The scheme crippled the law office.
And on Monday it landed two of its plotters, and possibly a third, in prison for the rest of their lives.
The plan, which cost 58-year-old Gail C. Spencer her life on Oct. 5, 2012, was hatched by Tracy Michelle Jones, 39, whod been one of Spencers co-workers at Pinkston & Associates on Vineville Avenue.
The caper was a sure-fire failure from the get-go. For one, too many people knew about it.
In the days before the theft and killing, one of Jones co-conspirators, Michael Brett Kelly, then 18 and also her lover, had gone looking for help, recruiting muscle to keep Spencer at home and away from the law office, prosecutors said. Meanwhile at the firm, Jones would wire the money to the thieves accounts.
Trouble was, within days of the slaying, one of the young men Kelly tried to recruit -- one of at least a couple who turned him down -- went to the cops. That blew the case open.
On Monday, Jones and Kelly, who forced Spencer to perform a sex act on him before he suffocated her, pleaded guilty. They were sentenced to life without parole.
Kellys half sister, Courtney Nicole Kelly, 24, also pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to life, but with the chance of parole.
All three stood side by side in Bibb County Superior Court while making their pleas. Jones, in a black pantsuit and spectacles, was the only one in street clothes.
Another man, alleged fourth conspirator Keith Dozier, 23, was in court but he didnt plead guilty. Prosecutors say Dozier was a lookout during the killing. He has asked for a change of venue in the case and is expected to stand trial sometime next year.
No joy for us today
A contingent of Spencers friends and kin three dozen strong also looked on. Many wore red, Spencers trademark color. They also sported white ribbons with her first initial painted on them.
Before the proceedings began Monday, after the accused filed in, the red-haired Courtney Kelly mouthed words to relatives and grinned. Brett Kelly, gaunt-faced from a year behind bars, caught his mothers eye and smiled. Jones was pale and stoic.
After the trio pleaded guilty, Spencers sister, JoEllen Smith, spoke for more than 10 minutes about the sleepless nights, tears and more tears Spencers slaying caused.
Smith said her sister, whod worked at the Pinkston firm 13 years, had been targeted by a plot of evil and greed.
There are many whose lives will never be the same without her, Smith said. Nothing said or done will ever make this right. ... There is no joy for us today.
Brett Kellys mother, Kim Weathington of Warner Robins, seated maybe 20 feet from Spencers son, listened with tears in her eyes.
It killed me, Weathington said later. I hurt for them. ... One mistake, one evil plan, one manipulation and five lives are done. And a lot of people are hurt.
One at a time, Judge Tripp Self asked the accused if they had any remarks.
Jones and Courtney Kelly each offered quick Im sorries.
When Brett Kellys turn came, Self asked, Anything you want to say?
Kelly said nothing.
Behind him in the front row, Spencers son and only child, Mark Haskins, nearly gasped.
One of Kellys lawyers later explained to the judge that Kelly had been advised not to make a statement.
But like most everything else in the scheme Kelly and the others concocted, even his try for silence failed.
The 19-year-old had penned a handwritten apology letter. His lawyers hadnt wanted him reading it.
But his mother, a nurse, had a copy of it in her pocketbook.
She wanted it known that her boy, as he puts it, is no monster.
She shared the letter with The Telegraph.
His dad, none of them have read this, she said. None of them know that Im doing this. ... Because its over. The papers have been signed.
In his mistake-laden, undated letter, which he addressed to Spencers family and friends, Brett Kelly began:
I would like to start off by saying Im sorry for yalls loss. And Im sorry for taken Mrs. Gail away from yall. I honstley dont know the pain yall are going through. But I hope this letter finds good to you.
He went on to say that itd taken him over a year to find the right words to say. ... I Just wanted to let the city of macon the friends, and for most the family of Mrs. Gail that I am no monster. When this act took place I was only 18. I was and still am young. I was not thinking ... and I was going through some things when this happen.
His mother said his lawyers apparently scratched through the next line: I was miss lead. I was brain washed Into doing someone else plan.
He wrote that before the killing I was doing good in life.
The next line is also crossed out: But I let someone talk me into doing there dirty work.
Kelly went on: But Im also taken full responisability for what I did. I Just want everyone to know that Im human like the rest of yall. I made a simple mistake that led to a bad ending. Every one makes mistake. Its life. So for all this said, Im sorry for what I did. ... Michael Brett Kelly.
To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.