Spencer Pleads No Contest To Killing, Gets Life For Second Degree Murder

Published 9:59 am Thursday, January 10, 1991

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Clifton Eugene Spencer, 32, the alleged murderer of Manteo waitress, Stacy Stanton, pleaded no contest in Superior Court on Tuesday to a reduced charge of second degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Pleading no contest means the defendant docs not admit guilt, but he is treated by the court in the same way someone is treated when he or she pleads guilty.

The murder occurred in February, 1990, in Manteo, at Ms. Stanton’s apartment at 506 Ananias Dare St., Apt. l.

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By his plea, he will not face the death penalty as he would have if he had been tried and convicted.

A soft-spoken Spencer answered “yes sir” to Judge Herbert W. Small, presiding judge of superior court, when questioned about his rights.

“Do you now agree to this plea arrangement,?” Judge Small asked.

“Yes sir,” Spencer answered.

Spencer was represented by defense lawyer R. O. Murphy of Greensboro. Prosecuting was district attorney H. P. Williams of Raleigh.

Spencer, a high school graduate who had completed one year of college, swore to the truth of contents of his plea agreement and signed it before Judge Small.

Prosecuting witnesses, Dennis G. Honeycutt and Kent Inscoe, both agents with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), testified before the court. There were three photo exhibits presented.

Honeycutt testified that upon entering the apartment he observed the body of a female clad in a blue thermal shirt with her pants and underwear laying next to her. She was partially laying on a mattress. Exhibit One showed “numerous cutting wounds around the neck and a great quantity of blood in the room,” according to Honeycutt.

He next went into the kitchen, and then into a bedroom where he found clothing piled on a bed. The bathroom, he said, showed evidence of blood around the sink “as if someone had washed their hands.”

Exhibit Two showed injury to the neck. Fourteen superficial wounds were reported, and two which were deep cuts to the jugular were determined to be the cause of death, according to Honeycutt. Ms. Stanton died of loss of blood.

Exhibit three showed three cuts inflicted after death.

Agent Inscoe said the search for the murderer focused on “associates and her previous boyfriend.” Her boyfriend, however, was able to present an alibi which would not have put him at the scene of the crime.

Spencer, according to Inscoe, was the last person to see Ms. Stanton alive and there were numerous fingerprints of his around the apartment.

Although he spoke with Spencer several times, Inscoe stated that Spencer acknowledged knowing Ms. Stanton, but said he didn’t know that she had been killed. “He never asked how she died or anything about her death,” Inscoe said. But he did make some incriminating statements, he said.

“He was not sure what happened, only that Stacy was upset and that he had layed down next to her on the mattress, ” said Inscoe. According to information received during the interviews, Spencer said that Ms. Stanton “kicked me and raised hell with me – she got loud and crazy.”

Spencer claimed the evening was hazy and foggy because of crack cocaine use and alcohol consumption, said prosecuting testimony.

Ms. Stanton had been stabbed with a “box cutter type knife used for sheet rock cutting,” according to prosecution testimony.

There was no defense testimony or cross-examination. Murphy did, however, say that Spencer is “salvageable and has the support of his family in overcoming his background which includes the use of drugs.”

“It is hopeful that society and time will prove us right in that he can get his life together and make a meaningful contribution to society,” said Murphy. Spencer will be eligible for parole in ten years.

Both Lt. Col. Jasper Williams of the Dare County Sheriff’s office, and former Manteo Police Chief, Steven Day, participated in the investigation.

Spencer’s parents, Harry G. and Emma Jean Spencer of Columbia, attended the hour-long court hearing.

To see the scans of the archived newspaper page where this article appeared, click here and here.