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Murder defendant says he acted in self-defense

Smith gives account of deadly drug deal

Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Murder defendant Ronald E. Smith today claimed self-defense in the January assault and robbery that left Kenneth Thomas dead and Alfred Torres injured.

Smith, 34, also said he had no reason to commit robbery, as he is charged, because he worked two jobs. He said he had no knowledge of how Thomas sustained the skull fracture that killed him.

"I lost visual of Mr. Soto (co-defendant Rey Joel Soto) when I was engaged in mutual combat with Mr. Torres, and didn't take my eyes off my opponent once," Smith testified.

Smith's version of the events of 4 a.m. Jan. 25 was far removed from the version given by Torres in testimony last week. Smith testified he began drinking and smoking marijuana with friends about 7 p.m. on Jan. 24.

He said he was at the residence of a woman friend when Soto arrived about 2 a.m. Jan 25. Smith testified they discussed marijuana and said he paged a man about buying a gram. He testified another man returned the call and said to meet "his partner" in the village.

After parking downtown, Smith said he saw two men he believed to be his contacts. He said Alfred Torres was holding a large mug and that Torres identified himself as connected to the dealer he was seeking. Smith said he wanted a gram and handed Torres five $5 bills.

Smith testified Torres pulled a baggie out of the mug.

"I looked at the bag and said I didn't want it because it looked like much less than a gram," Smith said. "He said he would go inside the house and get another one."

When Torres emerged, "He seemed to be walking weird, and he said something like a nursery rhyme, 'My dear darling dearest adorable one, now you must pay for what you have done,' " Smith testified. "Then I knew that his intentions were not good.

"I asked him if he was Mother Goose, and he said, 'No, I am the owner of that marijuana you stole."

Smith said he did not back away from the confrontation because he was standing on ice and afraid to fall and be "jumped" by both men. So he stepped forward to absorb the blow from a bat held by Torres. He testified he and Torres struggled, during which time he hit Torres in the head with the bat and blood spattered. Smith said he got the bat, threw it away and continued sparring with Torres.

He said he and Soto left the scene, taking the mug and the bat.

In questioning by assistant district attorney Sue McLean, Smith said there has been "rumors" that he had stolen marijuana and cash from a vehicle in November. He thought these rumors were what caused Torres whom he said he did not know to attack him.

Smith's public defender, Darrel Gardner, asked Smith if he would have acted differently if he had known Kenneth Thomas was severely injured.

"I am CPR certified," Smith said. "Had I known, I would have stuck around and never left a man with those injuries."

McLean hammered at inconsistencies in Smith's testimony, noting differences between what he told police officers Jan. 25 and what he said under oath today. Smith said he was embarrassed to tell officers he knew personally that he was involved in drug dealings.



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