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Thanksgiving brings feelings of warmth and gratitude. But in a southern community, they were replaced by horror.
On Friday, November 26, 2004, Brent and Charlotte Springford were found brutally slain in their mansion in the wealthy Garden District of Montgomery, Alabama.
“It was conveyed to me that ‘This is a bad one,’” Det. Bryan Jurkofsky of the Montgomery Police Department told Oxygen series “Homicide for the Holidays”. “I can still see it to this day.”
The Springfords, who were philanthropists and owners of the Luverne Pepsi Bottling Company nearby, had been beaten and stabbed. Their throats had been cut. Blood spatter on the ceiling and walls indicated they had been struck many times. Next to Brent was a large knife and a large wooden stick that appeared to be like a large ax handle. The home seemed to have been ransacked.
“This came as a real shock to find out that that a couple like that could be murdered,” said Ellen Brooks, Montgomery County District Attorney. “I’d never seen a crime scene that bloody.”
Detectives found a second-story window accessible by a trellis that had been broken. They learned that while the house had an alarm system, it didn’t cover the upstairs.
"Very few people know about that,” said Brooks.
Theory number one was a burglary gone bad.
“The problem is nothing appeared to be taken,” said Det. Michael Myrick of the Montgomery Police Department.
Instead, investigators believed the scene had been staged.
“Somebody who murdered these two people was very angry at them,” said Myrick.
Detectives learned that the couple had an early Thanksgiving dinner with their daughter, Robin, and her husband in Birmingham. Returning home, Brent got a speeding ticket at 6:15 p.m at a location about an hour from their home. That gave investigators a detailed idea of when the Springfords got back to the Garden District.
The traffic violation yielded another clue. The car Brent was driving, a black Jaguar, wasn’t at the Springford home. Finding it was a top priority.
Contacting the Springford family members was another. Investigators first reached out to Robin.
“We just simply stated to her that her parents were found deceased,” said Myrick. “She immediately stated, ‘I have an older brother. He lives in Colorado. He did this.’”
Investigators dug deeper into the background of Brent Jr. He had moved west instead of joining the family business. He lived in Greeley, Colorado with a woman named Carolyn Scoutt and her children from a previous marriage. He had allegedly spent Thanksgiving with them, at a home that was about 1,400 miles from the crime scene.
Investigators spoke by phone with Scoutt, who confirmed that Brent Jr. was at their house on Thanksgiving day, and that he left that evening to visit a friend. Detectives asked her to have him contact them about an emergency involving his family in Alabama.
On November 27, Brent Jr. contacted Montgomery police. He told them he was home for Thanksgiving and that he’d gone hiking. He asked no questions about the family emergency, which immediately raised suspicions.
Four days after Thanksgiving, Montgomery detectives flew to Colorado to interview Brent Jr. and his family. Scoutt was distraught when she learned the Springfords had been killed. But when Brent Jr. arrived he had no visible reaction to hearing that his parents had been killed, according to Jurkofsky. He said he was willing to help and then gave his alibi.
Brent Jr.’s neighbors described his relationship with his wife as “very odd” in interviews with detectives. Investigators also discovered that their home was purchased through his parents as a wedding present, but they did not cohabitate together.
In an unexpected twist, Brent Jr. checked himself into a Colorado mental care facility. Mental health law prohibited detectives from questioning Brent Jr. while he was in a psychiatric facility. Two days after checking himself in, Brent Jr. placed a telephone call to a Montgomery news station. He expressed his disbelief that he was being investigated for his parents’ murder.
Detectives focused on Brent Jr.’s alibi about being in another state at the time of the murders.
"We needed to ascertain if there was any possibility that he could have departed Colorado to get to Montgomery and to get back to Colorado, as if nothing happened,” investigators said.
A follow-up call to Scoutt produced a lead. She told them that she’d taken Brent Jr. to the bus station on Monday, November 22 so he could visit a friend. The information poked a hole in Brent Jr.’s alibi.
“We looked at a lot of video footage, hours of video footage,” said Montgomery County Prosecutor Daryl Bailey.
Detectives determined that he boarded a bus bound for Denver under the name of Terry Chance. From Denver he traveled to Nashville and then to Montgomery. Hs alibi was no longer secure.
On December 8, Brent Jr. was arrested at the mental health facility and booked into custody.
Detectives learned that Brent Jr. had a history of “mental issues.” His parents supported him financially, but the relationship had turned contentious. Not long before the murder they informed Brent Jr. he was being cut off — and out of their will, according to “Homicide for the Holidays.”
Ultimately, Brent Jr. confessed. He claimed that he’d discussed his financial straits with Scoutt and that she drove him to the bus station so that he could go to Montgomery to talk with his parents.
When he arrived there he armed himself with a pick handle from a tool shed and a kitchen knife. He claimed they talked first and then a fight broke out, but evidence indicated the deadly attack had actually been an ambush.
He drove his father’s car to Tulsa, then boarded a bus for Colorado.
The egregious nature of the murders led prosecutors to seek the death penalty. After extensive conversations, including ones with Robin, said Brooks, an “extensive plea agreement” was hammered out.
In 2008 Bent Springford Jr. was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In 2013, at age 37, he died in prison after overdosing on Tylenol, reported wsfa.com.
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