New leads sought in hit-and-run cold case

STERRETT- Very little is known about the circumstances surrounding the 1996 vehicular homicide of 80-year-old Herbert Spradley. What is known is that Spradley had been driving a small tractor on Alabama 25 in Sterrett, when he was hit from behind by a car and thrown from his vehicle.

The incident took place on Monday, June 17, 1996 at about 3 p.m., according to members of the Shelby County Cold Case Squad. According to Cold Case Squad Investigator Larry Strayer, Spradley was not killed at the time of the accident, but sustained serious injuries and died in the hospital a few weeks later. Spradley never gave an official statement to police.

“I don’t think he was ever conscious,” Strayer said.

The vehicle that Spradley’s tractor was hit by was described as small and medium-to-light blue with damage to the front end. The driver was said to be a white male between 20 and 40 years old, and is believed to have hit Spradley on accident.

“It was 3 o’ clock in the afternoon, I don’t think it was premeditated,” Strayer said.

“It appears to be a hit-and run,” Cold Case Squad Investigator Jim Dormuth added. “There is no reason to believe that Mr. Spradley was (a) target.”

During the course of the initial investigation, Strayer said authorities chased multiple leads and looked into several cars with similar descriptions.

“They either weren’t the right type, or more importantly, didn’t have the kind of damage that one would expect when a car hits a tractor,” Strayer said.

Strayer said they believe there were witnesses in the area who have not yet reached out, but would be able to provide invaluable information.

“There was indication that there was more than one person in the offending vehicle, and there was information provided back then by somebody that they kind of looked at (Spradley), realized that he wasn’t dead and left,” Strayer said.

Dormuth and Strayer said they are especially interested in speaking to the vehicle’s passenger, as well as any other passengers that may have been in the vehicle. Strayer said the witnesses are not considered culpable for the crime, and will not receive any charges if they come forward.

“Whoever has the knowledge of this came forward and we can talk. We have our suspicions, and if we get information that can confirm the suspicions, we can then go to the family and tell them that we have a high degree of confidence that we know who caused this,” Strayer said.

“Whoever was in the car owes it to Mr. Spradley’s family, not to us, to come and tell us what happened that day in detail,” Dormuth said. “If they need to speak to us in confidence, that’s fine.”

The reason why the driver left the scene is currently unknown, but Strayer said there are several possible motives that have been considered over the years.

“Say alcohol was involved, he didn’t want to get a DUI and wanted to avoid an arrest. And if alcohol was involved, do you know what’s not usually involved? Good thinking,” Strayer said. “Why somebody would run off and let someone die, I don’t have an answer. But if alcohol or drugs were involved, or they had a number of prior traffic violations and wanted not to have the repercussions of insurance or being arrested and spending time in jail.”

Strayer and Dormuth said they have identified several persons of interest in the case, and they hope the driver reaches out to clear their conscience.

“If the driver had handled it the day it happened, whatever the consequences were, would have been long over by now. If the driver is still alive, if would be to the driver”s best interest to try to resolve all of the issues now, tell their side of the story and let the District Attorney make a decision on what’s what,” Dormuth said.

After Spradley’s death, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible. Strayer said that offer still stands today.

Anyone who may have any knowledge related to the case is encouraged to contact the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at 669-4181 or online at Shelbyso.com.

“If they know something, firsthand, secondhand or by rumor that they learned at that time, we’re interested in talking to them,” Dormuth said. “Every little bit helps.”