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Alleged killer appears in court

The man charged with murdering his Grove Street neighbor in a drug deal gone bad appeared before chief magistrate William Thomas today during a preliminary hearing. Ronald Smith, 28, is charged with shooting 56-year-old Charles Graves Adams in the face with a high-powered rifle January 30. The shooting has been tied to a methamphetamine transaction, according to district attorney Richard Milam. At the hearing, officers testified that Smith approached them at the scene on Grove Street and was implicated after ‘inserting himself’ into the investigation. Investigator Buddy McBride outlined the facts of the case. He noted Smith was initially interviewed and later requested – in writing – a second interview with investigators at which he said the shooting was accidental. Smith told authorities during the interview he threw a real estate tube at the door in the pre-dawn darkness to summon Adams because, as a convicted felon, he did not want to be seen with a weapon. When Adams came out, Smith claims he was showing the dead man the rifle which he wished to sell when he worked the bolt and the gun went off. In McBride’s office, he described how he was crouched down on one knee with the rifle aimed at the victim when it accidentally fired. After the shooting, Smith did not bother to check on Adams but fled to his home, according to testimony. McBride said he was questioning a neighbor of the victim when he learned Smith left his home and questioned investigators at the scene from his driveway. At that time, McBride informed those at the scene that Smith fit the description of the shooter as provided by the neighbor being questioned. The process of obtaining a search warrant for Smith’s home was begun but Smith consented to a search. McBride testified that search turned up spent 30.06 casings in Smith’s driveway and a plastic rifle case in a nearby ditch. Subsequently, the rifle itself was found in a creek bed adjacent to Smith’s home. Also found were a pair of suspenders missing a buckle. The missing buckle was found at the murder scene, McBride said. Additionally, shoes were discovered with soles that matched footprints from the shooting scene. At that point, Smith was arrested and taken in for questioning. Assistant district attorney Scott Johnston noted the investigation is ongoing. Autopsy results and ballistics reports are pending. Smith’s military records have been subpoenaed but not received. Smith has told investigators he had military rifle training. Witnesses at the scene the day after the shooting told The Herald-Gazette Smith claimed to be a former Marine sniper. Johnston argued the facts of the case are sufficient enough to establish probable cause that Smith is guilty of premeditated malice murder. McBride testified he also interviewed Mickey Waldrop and Jason Finch. Those interviews indicated Waldrop was selling methamphetamine and marijuana from the residence where the victim was shot, he said. He also testified that Smith and Finch regularly purchased and used drugs at the home. Smith, owing Waldrop money, wasn’t going to pay him because the ‘s**t was f***ed up’, McBride testified. Smith was represented by defense attorney Eric Hearn who requested the rifle also be tested. Hearn argued the shooting was accidental. ‘Accidents happen. My client showed no intent to harm anyone, let alone murder them,’ Hearn said. After hearing the evidence, Judge William Thomas bound Smith over to superior court. He remains in the Lamar County jail. Nine members of Smith’s family were present at the hearing. The alleged shooter was allowed to embrace his mother, wife and others before being escorted back to his cell in shackles. “I love you” he called out to his family as he was led away.

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