The shock of the judge’s ruling reverberated through Ray, his wife Norma and his legal team. No one could quite come to grips with the flawed reasoning behind it. The judge felt that Ray Spencer still either wouldn’t have gone to trial, or that the new evidence would not have made any difference if they had known about it at the time of trial. Either way, it was flawed reasoning on its face, and a bitter pill to swallow. As disheartening as it was though, life had to go on.
With the rest of his life looming before him, Ray had decided wasting it was pointless. He became an avid reader, ultimately donating books to the tiny library there in Idaho once he had read them. He read almost 3,000 books while he was housed in Idaho. He doesn’t know how many he read during his stays in Washington. When you are confined behind the cold, unforgiving walls of justice, reading can become an escape. For Ray, living vicariously through the books he read helped to pass the time and shift focus away from the crushing realization that injustice had prevailed.
Books were not the only way Ray passed time, though. Ray Spencer set his sights on something bigger than his prison sentence. He went back to college. By today’s standards this doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. Inmates attend college all the time now, some actually excelling in higher learning. But back in the late eighties to early nineties, Idaho offered no college programs. Ray Spencer virtually pioneered the college program himself. The first challenge he faced was getting approval from the administration. It took some convincing, and it’s fair to say there were some reservations. Eventually though, perseverance paid off. Ray Spencer started college through California Coast University.
Having already obtained a bachelor’s degree, Ray opted to undertake a concurrent masters/doctorate program in psychology. He completed his coursework and all of his exams were proctored by the prison school. Things seemed to be going along smoothly until the time for his dissertation. According to university rules, Ray had to give this in person. As a prisoner, there was no way that was possible. There were no such things as video conferences back then. Ray offered to provide his dissertation if the dean would apply it to his master’s degree, so he could at least have that much. The dean agreed.
A week later, that dean passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. The new dean would not honor the agreement and so Ray was stuck in limbo. He had all the education, and none of the paperwork to prove it. He began to feel that bad luck just followed him around like it was tied to him with a string. It took until 2008 for Ray to finish his degree. By then, policies had changed and he was able to orally defend his research via telephone conference rather than in person. On January 21, 2008, he became Dr. Ray Spencer.
Throughout his incarceration, Ray was shuttled back and forth to Washington for various parole board hearings that were denied time after time. By 2001, inmates in Idaho had started taking note of his frequent travels, and speculating. Speculation in prison is a dangerous thing. Just like today, it leads to misinformation stated as fact. However, in prison there is little you can do to combat it or defend yourself from it. Eventually Ray no longer felt safe in Idaho. The decision was made to keep him in Washington. He was sent to be housed at Twin Rivers.
Twin Rivers was a sex offenders camp. There, he came in contact with true sexual predators, horribly real child molesters, and generally the lowest of the low in the prison system. Having to listen to them justify their actions sickened him to the core. Being housed with men like this caused Ray to have some serious reservations about sex offenders and programs that supposedly rehabilitate them. Since he never admitted guilt, he was not eligible for those programs that might have reduced his sentence. He saw men that bragged about their assaults walking out the door free, knowing that he wouldn’t lie for that freedom. It was a stance that cost him time, but never once cost him his honor.
Ray’s attorney had continued to try to get him released with no success. Governor Locke was scheduled to leave office on January 1, 2005. Ray’s attorney took a long-shot chance and requested clemency. Nobody really expected Ray to actually get clemency, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. That Christmas of 2004, Norma came up to visit. Holidays were difficult and even Christmas was not a joyous time for them. There had been so many hearings and so many denials that it was difficult to find joy in anything. Norma left to return home on the 26th, and it would be the usual wait before she was free to come visit him again.
On December 27, 2004, Ray Spencer’s life took another unexpected turn. Late that afternoon, he was called down to the counselor’s office, causing him to miss the regularly scheduled cell count. That was strange enough, but to see the counselor acting excited and out of breath was even stranger. As amazing as it seemed, Ray discovered that the governor had signed his commutation. Ray Spencer was getting ready to be a free man. He was set to be released on December 29th. Ray was paroled to King County in Washington. A little before 11 in the morning, Ray Spencer walked out of prison, a free man.
Since Norma had just come for a visit, she couldn’t come back immediately. Being Norma, though, she made arrangements for friends to help Ray get adjusted. The state had arranged housing in a flea bag hotel that screamed undesirable. Ray didn’t care though. He had an actual bed, privacy in the shower, space of his own. It was luxurious compared to a prison cell. The morning after his release, he rose early and as soon as the sun was up he went out for a walk. There was no destination in mind. He walked simply because he could. It was a little thing that we take for granted, but for Ray it was huge.
After many more trials and tribulations too numerous to recount here, Ray settled in California. He has been exonerated of all charges. His record is once again clean and clear. Most importantly is that Ray and Norma are now, finally, happily together. He has reunited with both of his children, and enjoys his grandchildren immensely. It has been a long road to get to this point. There is no way to do his story justice. We have only hit on a very few of the high points in this series, but hopefully enough to show you that corruption does exist. Horror stories like this can, and do happen to anybody.
Many people wonder about the detectives in this case. Sharon Krause and Michael Davidson are both retired now, and enjoying their pensions. They have never been held accountable for all the wrongdoings, questionable investigative tactics, or the outright fabrication of evidence. There were no sanctions, censures, no charges filed. One would have to guess they sleep well at night, as those completely without souls are wont to do. If you are a believer in karma, then you know that no matter what else, in the dark of night when they are alone with only their thoughts, Ray Spencer is there to haunt them. Whether they believe they were right or wrong is anybody’s guess. Those that have looked at this case already know that answer.
Ray Spencer was awarded $9,000,000 in a civil suit judgment. Ray should have had his happily ever after. His powerhouse attorney Kathleen Zellner fought long and hard to give him his due. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Like so many other aspects of this case, this became embroiled in a vicious cycle of appeals, denials, retrials, and most recently, arbitration. It’s one thing to have no soul, but another entirely to have no honor. Sadly, lack of honor won the day. On October 3, 2017 an arbitration agreement was reached. The exact details are confidential, but Ray Spencer will only receive a fraction of his original awarded settlement. Lack of soul incarcerated an innocent man, but lack of honor caused them to quibble over what a man’s life is worth in dollars and cents.
Ray Spencer remains undaunted. He has published his book, available for purchase below. If you want to hear more of Ray’s story, it is a must read. He has been invited to sit on the board of a non-profit organization that assists wrongfully convicted people, especially police officers. And in spite of it all, he still hopes to buy Norma the home she wants, and help his children as well. It wasn’t necessarily about the money, as much as it was about accountability. Ray Spencer has all the honor his opponents lack, making him richer than they could ever hope to be. Honor is something money can’t buy.
(Be The Rain receives no compensation for this endorsement, nor do we receive compensation for any book sales initiated on this site.)
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