GREENFIELD — Rebecca Spencer was sentenced to 18 months of probation Friday after special Judge David Riggins said the chance of her neglecting children and failing to report abuse again are “zero.”
Spencer, 48, of New Palestine, was found guilty last month of two felony counts of neglect and one misdemeanor count of failure to report.
Her case was closely connected to her ex-husband’s, in which Michael Spencer was convicted of child molesting and sentenced to 100 years. Rebecca Spencer was accused of knowing about the abuse but failing to report it.
Rebecca Spencer, a former Hancock County probation officer, spent the previous 23 days in a jail in Hamilton County. While Hancock County Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier suggested her sentence be one year in jail and one year on probation, Riggins said he didn’t think additional time in jail is necessary.
“I just don’t see the purpose in it,” said Riggins. “I think you need to get back to your family.”
Spencer is a mother of seven, and with Michael Spencer in prison, she is the children’s only parent. She hugged her children through tears after the sentencing.
“I’m glad to go home to my kids,” she said. “That’s all I wanted.”
The hour-long court proceeding mostly included an interview between Spencer and her attorney, Chris Smith. Spencer said for the past 3½ weeks in jail, she participated in prayer circles and Bible studies with fellow inmates.
Spencer’s 24-year career with the Hancock County Probation Department ended when charges were filed against her earlier this year; she had also worked with teenagers through Eastern Hancock’s Students Against Destructive Decisions program and Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse.
Spencer said ultimately she’d still like to get a job in social work, perhaps helping young adults overcome substance abuse. But she acknowledged it will be difficult to find work after her conviction. She also said she’d like to move her family away from Hancock County to avoid further public scrutiny.
Smith suggested she get 13 months of probation, and Spencer said that seemed appropriate because she’s “led an exemplary life.” She pointed out she has no previous convictions and does not take drugs or alcohol.
“I’ve realized my children need me, and I need them,” she said.
But Napier said Spencer’s failure to report abuse showed a “depraved indifference to what the victims felt and what they were going through.”
“Even as we sit here today, I haven’t heard the words from Rebecca Spencer, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.’ ”
While Riggins decided the time she had served in jail was enough, he also admitted it was difficult deciding what kind of sentence was appropriate.
Much of the testimony throughout last month’s trial centered on the victims’ habitual lying. While two of Michael Spencer’s victims told Rebecca Spencer about his molesting them, the victims later told Rebecca Spencer they were lying.
“You had an opportunity to stop this two years ago, and you didn’t,” Riggins told Rebecca Spencer Friday. “You had a chance to stop it before it all came out, and you didn’t … It’s pretty simple. If you think kids are being abused, report it.”
Spencer was given credit for the time she served in jail, so her additional time on probation will be 16½ months.