Relatives of the victims are happy that their efforts will keep a convicted murderer behind bars, but are disappointed they will have to repeat the process in three years.
Patricia Brigman, of Carl Junction, said family members were notified Thursday that John Steven Martin, convicted of killing their relatives in separate robberies 37 years ago, will remain behind bars.
Victims’ relatives testified Aug. 23 at Moberly Corrections Center as part of a parole hearing for Martin, formerly of Carthage, arguing against his release from prison. Another hearing will be held in three years, though the parole board could have pushed that deadline back as far as five years, Brigman said.
“I’m in disbelief his parole is not for the maximum of five years,” she said, noting Martin had been convicted twice of first-degree murders.
Martin was 19 years old in April 1976 when he was assessed a second life sentence after he was convicted in the death of Leroy Spencer, 24, during a robbery of a Rolla service station. In March 1975, a life sentence was imposed in Jasper County after Martin was convicted of kidnapping and killing Carthage liquor store owner James Stemmons after robbing his business.
Brigman, the sister of Leroy Spencer, said she was unable to attend the hearing because of an illness in her family. She said she sent a letter of opposition and other materials, which were presented by Debra Stemmons Smith, of Kansas City, who is the oldest daughter of James Stemmons.
“They also presented an online petition that had been signed by about 1,500 people,” she said.
At the request of the families, a letter opposing parole also was sent from the office of Dean Dankelson, Jasper County prosecuting attorney. The prosecutor noted that Martin’s crimes — two murders arising out of two robberies — would have made have made him ineligible for parole under current law.
Brigman said the victims’ families had urged the parole board to keep Martin behind bars for the longest possible term, which would be five years.
“It’s painful that we have to go through this every three years and that this is the way we have to remember them. That we have to remember their death, and not their life,” she said.
Brigman said her brother was shot Oct. 16, 1974, when he had stopped at a service station in Rolla. She said the station attendant was shot three times and survived.
Martin was convicted of killing Stemmons in a liquor store robbery in Nov. 21, 1974. After taking money, robbers forced Stemmons into his pickup truck and drove to a wooded area southeast of Carthage, where Stemmons was shot once in the back and three times in the head.
Two others were convicted in connection with the Carthage crime. They served three-year sentences and were released.