Arizona Teen Charged With Mom’s Murder, Friend Charged as Accomplice

By Barbara Schmitt

Oct 28, 2013 8:14pm

An Arizona teen has been charged with murdering his mother, and the suspect’s friend charged with being an accomplice, authorities said today.

Police in Mesa, Ariz., said the 16-year-old attacked and killed his mother, Tina Helms Spencer, 36, and the teen’s 17-year-old friend then helped him discard some of the evidence.

Authorities said they arrived at the victim’s home shortly before 4 a.m. Saturday after receiving a phone call from the son’s stepfather, who told police that he had been assaulted by his 16-year-old stepson with a kitchen pan after coming home from work.  The teen then fled the house in his mother’s car, police said.

The stepfather told police that when he arrived at home that evening, he assumed his wife was home asleep because her car was in the driveway.

Mesa Police Department Sergeant Tony Landato told ABC News that there were “obvious signs of a struggle” inside the home.

“As officers did a protective sweep of the house, they saw signs of an obvious crime scene inside.  There was blood evidence,” Landato said.

The investigation led officers into the backyard, where they found Spencer’s body inside a shed, Landato said. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Police interviewed the suspect’s 17-year-old friend at his home early Saturday evening, and the friend told police he had witnessed an argument between Spencer and her son, police said.

While the 17-year-old was being interviewed, the suspect arrived at that house, and was immediately taken into custody without incident, police said.

The 16-year-old was booked into juvenile detention and charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder of his stepfather, three counts of aggravated assault against the stepfather, concealment of a dead body and tampering with evidence.

The 17-year-old was also arrested and charged with being an accomplice to first-degree murder, as well as concealment of a dead body and tampering with evidence.

Police are not naming the two because they are juveniles, but authorities expect to have a transfer hearing to see if the they will be charged as adults.

“We believe that the 17-year-old was present during the assault on the mother and then helped conceal the body and also helped with trying to clean up the crime scene,”  Landato said.

A neighbor of the family said he knows the suspect and even gave him a ride recently. “He seemed nice. I gave him a ride to his grandma’s,” Mae Clark told ABC affiliate ABC15 Action News.

The medical examiner’s office has yet to determine a cause of death, Landato said, but police found a hammer and a kitchen pan that may have been used in the crime.

“The M.E. will have to determine the cause of death,” Landato said. “But it appears blunt trauma was involved in this.”

The brutal crime has shocked the normally quiet neighborhood.

“We literally worked on this around the clock until we had our suspects in custody,” Landato said.


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