Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes

Spence trial underway


Monday afternoon, trial again got underway in a case against Justin Spence. The trial has already seen a few delays, the most recent of which happened in December due to a procedural issue. Spence is on trial for incest, a felony which alleges on July 4 or 5, 2014, he molested a juvenile female.

During opening arguments, prosecuting attorney Marcia Bean said the case began with the alleged victim’s birth and her growing up. At that time, Spence came to live with her family, and she came to develop a close relationship with him. Spence would eventually move to Thermopolis, and the juveniles and her mom would later follow suit. Bean said the juvenile would come to think of Spence as her confidant, someone she would go to for advice.

Bean said the jury would hear of how the juvenile’s family were lighting off fireworks for a couple hours on July 4, 2014, and the offer was made to her to spend the night at Spence’s. The juvenile’s mother agreed.

Later that evening, Bean said, Spence and his girlfriend, along with the juvenile, were listening to music and drinking alcohol when Spence got up and went to the bathroom. At this point, Bean said, the juvenile begins receiving inappropriate texts which she is assured are for her.

As the night goes on, Bean said, the juvenile would find herself alone with Spence, as his girlfriend had gone to bed. Bean said the jury would hear of Spence’s advances and the juvenile’s attempts to get away from him.

Defense attorney Travis Smith, in his opening arguments, said the jury would hear a lot about the dates of the alleged incident. However, he asked them to look at Aug. 22, 2014, the date of Spence’s interview into the matter. In that interview, Smith said, Spence stated during the night of the incident the juvenile snuck out of his home and went to another residence nearby, spending about an hour there before returning.

Smith also pointed out it was not until a later interview, in March of 2015, that the juvenile first mentions Spence’s sending her a picture and his more aggressive advances. Also during the interview, Smith said, it was discovered the juvenile and another subject had been making plans prior to the incident. Though the alleged incident happened around July 4 or 5 of 2014, Smith pointed out it’s not until Aug. 12 that the juvenile reported it.

Spence is not denying the juvenile is at his home during the dates in question, Smith said, but the jury would hear two parallel stories in the course of the trial.


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