Friday, November 16, 2012

"Natural Life Plus 60 Years In Prison"

Uptown doesn't have to worry about Spencer Martin any more.

The Vice Lords gang member, now 35 years old, formerly of the 4200 block of Broadway, will be making the Illinois Department of Corrections his home for the rest of his life, according to a judge's ruling Thursday.  "Natural life plus sixty years in prison."  No parole.  No deals.  No earned time off for good behavior.

Residents who were here in 2006 might remember the robbery and shooting at the BP station at Lawrence and Clarendon on February 4th of that year.  A video showed a van rolling up, driven by one man (later identified as Earl Willis), and another man (later identified as Spencer Martin) getting out to rob a customer who was there buying potato chips.  Mr. Martin shot the man in the pelvis, and attempted to shoot him again, three times, but the gun jammed.  The van then took off.

The 23rd District court advocates followed the case.  Someone who was in court for the sentencing told us how Mr. Martin's attorney pleaded for his client, citing that he was an involved father, he supported his family, and that he was continuing his education.  He made some good points, the judge said, but if that gun hadn't jammed, they would all be there looking at a murder charge.  The judge sentenced Mr. Martin to 24 years in the pen.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

For all the good things his attorney said about him, Spencer Martin had some secrets.  For one, he had tried to pay off the victim not to testify against him.  For another, he had shot and tried to murder two brothers who bumped into him at Fat Albert's restaurant at 69th and Ashland three weeks before the BP robbery.  And the biggest secret of all, he had murdered the driver of the van, Earl Willis, shortly after the robbery at the BP station.  The videotape of Mr. Willis driving the van away from the BP station was the last time he was ever seen alive.

But there was another secret Mr. Martin didn't know:  His driver was a federal informant.  At the time of his death, Earl Willis was an "active informant" for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

It's all very CSI how they caught him, with DNA matching Mr. Martin taken from a bottle of brandy found in the pocket of the coat covering Mr. Willis's body, and bullet casings from all three incidents matching.  You can read about it in the Sun-Times and Tribune.  It was a very nice job by the police on a cold case.

The murder of a federal informant ensured that Spencer Martin will never again live as a free man.  Remember the name next time you vote for judges:  "Steven Goebel."  A strong sentence for a harsh crime.


  1. Everytime I pay my taxes I will think of him rotting in prison which I feel is too good for him. He deserves the chair as far as I am concerned insteade of a easy and relaxed life in prison that we all pay for....

  2. Real nice, Nickey! Not saying anyone who is an habitual offender deserves leniency for their crimes but maybe their time in prison will serve as a reminder for people who are living a life of crime. Death is easy and doesn't do ANY good other than save tax dollars. Punish one crime with a crime? I do not support the death penalty and never will... for ANY crime.

    I do wish there were more programs for the people. I think, and this is just my opinion, people serving time should be required to be a public servant in some way. These people can still do some good for society. Sitting in a cell without purpose or meaning is such a travesty. It is also a waste of tax payers money. They are still human beings who have made bad decisions in life, which, many people of many backgrounds do everyday.

  3. Nickey, you think prison is a easy & relaxed life? The death penalty actually costs more than keeping the person locked up for life. The appeals process can get into the millions.

  4. A criminal attorney once told me that generally lifers die in their 50s. A combination of the stress, ostracism, lack of a support system, isolation and lack of hope. In short, failure to thrive. I don't think life is prison is "cushy" and I think it's a fine fate for someone like this guy.

  5. I consider myself a compassionate person but I refuse to feel sympathy for this murderer and others like him. Snorting a line of coke for this first time is a bad decision but taking a life and attempting to take the lives of others warrants no compassion at all. I'm sorry but I'm not Helen Schiller and couldn't care less about these terrorist.