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Posted: October 21, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Man sentenced to life for murder of his girlfriend

Submitted Photo/

Rick Ray Breedlove

            It took a Newton County jury less than an hour to convict 56-year-old Rick Ray Breedlove of the death of his former girlfriend Pamela Spencer. Judge John Ott then sentenced him to life in prison plus five years for malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

            On Nov. 6, 2007, a call came in to Newton County 911. No one spoke on the tape, but what could clearly be heard were three piercing screams from Spencer and then two loud gunshots. After there was silence, save for the heavy breathing and groaning coming from Breedlove who had, according to prosecutors, shot Spencer and then himself.

            Breedlove and Spencer had been involved in a romantic relationship for roughly two years prior to her death. The couple was living together, but evidence was presented that showed the jury Spencer wanted out of the relationship and was scared for her life.

            “She wanted him gone,” said Assistant District Attorney Melanie Bell. “She wanted to end the relationship but he wasn’t going to let her go.”

            Defense attorney Jennifer Arndt argued that although many of Spencer’s friends would tell the jury that the relationship between her and Breedlove had turned sour, “none of them were there that night.” She also cautioned jurors not to just listen to the conclusion that the prosecutor was giving them.

            “If you start with the conclusion, how do you ever really know what happened,” she said.

            Spencer’s sister Gwin Basista testified to her sister’s character, saying that Spencer never wanted to worry her family, that she loved the outdoors and that, above all, her passion was her dogs and a small dog rescue group.

            As witnesses testified, Breedlove periodically shook his head slightly and rubbed at a large curved scar on his face – a constant reminder of the bullet that entered the left side of his mouth the night that Spencer died.

            Several Newton County Sheriff’s deputies took the stand and testified about what they found at Spencer’s home that night. They had been dispatched to the Oxford home at 8:17 p.m. for trouble unknown and when they arrived they heard sounds coming from the side of the home and found Spencer lying facedown on a back porch with a gunshot wound to the back of her head. Breedlove was slumped against a wall, moving slightly, with one side of his face covered in blood.

            According to NCSO Lt. Shawn Hickley, Breedlove’s right arm was draped across his body and a silver revolver was laying just inches from his hand. All deputies testified that they never heard or saw anyone else around the secluded property that evening. When the gun – a .357 Magnum – was processed later, the investigator found two empty shells and three live rounds left in the firearm, which had recently been purchased by Spencer. Jeanie Dillard told jurors that Spencer had come to her on Oct. 5, 2007 to learn how to shoot a gun.

            Investigator Mickey Kitchens told the jury he located several self-help books inside the home as well as a piece of paper that turned out to be a contract, allegedly prepared by Breedlove, with his signature and a place for Spencer’s signature that outlined what the two could do to improve their relationship and how they could “strive to let their love blossom.”

            In the master bedroom there was a bag with several new doorknobs and the master bathroom door jamb was damaged, appearing to have been forced open. Inside the bathroom was a closet where Spencer’s purse was located. The prosecution alleged Spencer had fled to the bathroom to retrieve her gun from her purse and Breedlove followed her there.

            Dr. Keith Lehman, a forensic pathologist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who performed the autopsy on Spencer, testified that along with being shot in the back of the head, there was also a through-and-through shot to the ring finger of her right hand. Lehman said that he believed the wound was consistent with Spencer having placed her hand over her head in a means of self-defense. There was also stippling (the appearance of sooty spots) found on her hand that would only occur if she had been shot from a distance of three-eighths of an inch to three and one-half feet away -- meaning the shot came from a fairly close distance.

            Several friends and co-workers of Spencer’s testified as well. Cindy Wilder, who had cleaned her desk out after her death found a letter to Spencer from Breedlove as well as a note with several things written on it, including a safety plan and protection order.

            The letter that was found started out with “I am so disappointed in you,” and went on to tell Spencer how she had hurt him and their relationship. “You have hurt me more than I could ever hurt you… Your life is one big lie… Please stop lying to me, please stop hurting us… You are an abuser…” It was signed “Disposable Man.”

            Pat Wheeler, a friend of Spencer’s who worked with her in the small dog rescue group, testified about a trip she, Spencer, Breedlove and other friends had taken to Utah just two months prior to Spencer’s death. They went to visit and volunteer at an animal sanctuary as well as to take a vacation. According to Wheeler, prior to the trip Spencer had made her aware of problems in the relationship.

            While on the trip Wheeler wrote in her travel journal “this man is dangerous.” The incident that caused her to write this came one night when everyone went out to dinner. Spencer shared a carafe of wine with another woman and Breedlove accused her of being drunk and Breedlove struck up a conversation with some “bikers” at another table which irritated Spencer.

            The ride back to the cabin that night was also memorable because of an argument over Breedlove’s fast driving. According to Wheeler there were many deer in the area and Spencer begged Breedlove to slow down. At one point he pulled over to let her drive, but throughout the drive kept pointing out to her “how dumb she was.”

            “His rage was such that it was just venom,” said Wheeler. “She told me that when we got back home he was history.”

            Another friend talked about how Spencer had been red-eyed the morning after the drive and when questioned about it she said that Breedlove had continued to belittle her all night. When she finally cried, he reportedly asked her if his statement had hurt her. When she told him it had, he allegedly said, “Good. Now we’re even”

            But Breedlove reportedly threatened to kill not only Spencer but her 14 rescue dogs as well if she left him. Her fear was such that she told a friend, who then contacted a friend in law enforcement; they met in secret behind a church in Oxford and talked about her options, such as getting a temporary protection order.

            According to a member of the Special Investigation Unit, who had met with Spencer the day of her death, she was terrified that Breedlove would see the two speaking and that within the last few weeks he had become increasingly angry and aggressive toward her.

            “She said he told her that if she talked to the police or got a restraining order he would get out eventually and kill her and her dogs,” he said.

            He testified that he urged her not to go home but she said that she had to go and get her dogs. He told her that if she needed to call 911 to do so and lay the phone down so authorities would respond more quickly. Additionally, Spencer reportedly told him that Breedlove said that he would leave her alone if she signed a paper saying that she would continue to pay for his motorcycle once he left. She refused.

            “She was so scared that she whispered his name,” he said, “and her hands would shake as she talked about him.” He offered to go to the home with her but she wouldn’t let him, saying that she didn’t want Breedlove to hurt him.

            Spencer told one friend, Linda Griffith, that she knew Breedlove was going to kill her just three days before her death.

            “She was almost resigned that he was going to kill her,” said Griffith. “She just made me promise that we wouldn’t let him get away with it.”

            The defense called no witnesses and Breedlove declined to take the stand in his own defense. Arndt addressed the jury in her closing argument urging the jury to remember that although many people talked about the relationship between Spencer and Breedlove, those people were her friends and the jury should remember that. She also said there was no way to know what happened on the night of Nov. 6, 2007.

            “What happened? We don’t know,” she said. “That’s the point.”

            Bell showed the jury a picture of Spencer and told them she was a real person and that she wanted them to listen again to the end of Spencer’s life. Once more she played the 911 tape, and Spencer’s mother and sisters who had stepped out of the courtroom for the initial playing began to cry. Her mother plugged her ears as Spencer’s haunting screams once more pierced through the courtroom.

            “That’s the end of the story,” said Bell. “A 49-year-old woman was struck down by the hand of Rick Breedlove.”

            As Bell told the jury that Breedlove was angry that Spencer was going to leave him and that he would no longer be able to have her as “his gravy train” Breedlove slowly shook his head as if disputing what she was saying.

            “This is a man who is losing control and he cannot let that happen,” she said. “We may not have a video camera that recorded Pamela Spencer’s murder but we heard it. Hold him responsible,” she begged the jury. “Don’t let him get away with it.”

            While the jury stepped out to deliberate, Breedlove spoke to the judge saying, “I did not shoot myself, I did not shoot her.” Ott told him that he had a chance to testify and had declined to do so.

            In the end, the jury found Breedlove guilty. Spencer’s sister gave a victim impact statement, saying “my sister Pam was full of life… Not only did he take her life but he stole a piece of all our lives. We ask for the maximum sentence so at least we know he may never harm another person again.”

            She later made a statement on behalf of her family, saying they were very pleased that justice had been served in the case.

            Bell made a statement as well, saying that the shortness of the trial spoke to the straightforward nature of the case.

            “October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this case is an example of the often tragic consequences of domestic violence in this country,” she said. “This case is also a sad testament to the dangers that women face when they make the decision to leave an abusive relationship.  Pam Spencer told her friends just days before her death that the defendant was going to kill her, and asked "please don't let him get away with it."  Today the jury's verdict provided justice for Pam and her family.”

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