Jury finds Joseph Spencer not guilty

Joseph Spencer, 39, formerly of California, was been found not guilty of murder by a Laclede County jury after less than two hours of deliberation.

Spencer was brought up on charges of first degree murder and armed criminal action before Judge Kenneth Michael Hayden after a change of venue to Laclede County Circuit Court.

The trial convened Monday, June 11. The prosecution and defense attorneys presented their cases. The defendant exercised his Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent and did not testify.

The case was sent to the jury on Thursday, June 14, at 12:27 p.m. Just over an hour and half later, at 1:58 p.m., the jury announced it has reached a verdict of not guilty.

After entering the order of acquittal, Judge Hayden ordered the defendant discharged.

The murder charge was originally filed in connection with the shooting death of Leslie Gregory, who was reported missing in November 2002. The victim's body and vehicle she was last seen driving were found in early January 2003.

Testimony at the arraignment revealed that a Highway Patrol helicopter spotted the car during an aerial search. Gregory's body was found wrapped in a tarp near the car. Dr. Eddie Adlestein, Medical Examiner, testified that Gregory died as the result of five gunshots to the head. No defensive wounds were found.

Spencer was taken into custody by the Moniteau County Sheriff's Department May 21, 2008, after being questioned about inconsistencies in his previous statements.

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