D.A. seeks death penalty against accused Polk County detective killers
POLK COUNTY, Ga. - Polk County District Attorney Jack Browning announced in court Monday he will seek the death penalty against the man and woman accused of killing a Polk County police detective.
Browning made the announcement as suspects Seth Spangler and Samantha Roof made their first court appearances in the murder of Detective Kristin Hearne.
Spangler and Roof said little as Superior Court Chief Judge Michael Murphy read the list of charges against them.
A number of family members and law enforcement colleagues of Detective Hearne packed the courtroom.
Many wore t-shirts in support of the slain officer and hugged Hearne’s husband, Aragon Police Officer Matt Hearne.
Hearne, 29, was helping a rookie officer on a stolen vehicle call along Santa Claus Road near Parrish Road just before 6 a.m. Friday when police said Spangler and Roof walked out of the woods.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Spangler, 31, spoke briefly with Hearne and Officer David Goodrich before he unexpectedly opened fire, striking both officers.
"It was more or less an ambush. I mean they come out and surprised these officers and he drew the gun before they even knew what happened,” said Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd.
The chief said Officer Goodrich was able to fire off a round at Spangler as he and Ruth, 22, fled the scene, prompting a massive manhunt.
Detective Hearne was in plain clothes and not wearing a bullet-proof vest at the time of the shooting. Chief Dodd said Goodrich was on scene for quite some time alone before Hearne arrived and there was not a clear need for a vest.
Hearne was rushed to an area hospital but later died.
Ruth was quickly captured, but Spangler eluded capture for most of the day. He eventually walked out of the woods naked around 2:45 p.m. near a group of officers stationed to keep an eye out for him, according to authorities.
Both Spangler and Ruth were booked into the Polk County Jail. Spangler was charged with felony murder and felony aggravated assault. Ruth also faces numerous felonies.
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GBI Spokesperson Vernon Keenan said Spangler was wanted out of Walker County for a felony probation violation and has a long criminal history.
Hearne leaves behind a husband, a young son, a mother, and a father. Chief Dodd said her husband works for the Aragon Police Department.