Highland man found guilty of murder of girlfriend
A Lake Superior Court jury deliberated about two hours before convicting a Highland man of murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend.
Douglas Anthony Smith, 27, faces 45 to 65 years in prison for the murder of Jacqueline Williams, 28, who was shot in the left eye on Jan. 14, 2012, at the couple’s duplex at 2611 40th Place. The bullet passed through Williams’ skull and the floor as she lay on her back at the foot of her bed, her robe open to expose her nakedness from the waist down. Police found the bullet in the lower level of the tri-level residence two days later when co-workers contacted police over concerns that Smith hadn’t shown up for work at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago.
Smith, who testified on Wednesday, said the shooting was accidental. Smith said Williams was walking backwards when she fell and he fell on top of her after they struggled over his gun, which she grabbed from the spare bedroom during an argument over Smith’s commitment to their relationship.
Judge Salvador Vasquez scheduled a March 22 sentencing hearing.
During closing arguments, deputy prosecutor Sabrina Haney told jurors Williams was helpless as she lay pinned to the floor when Smith fired his .357-Magnum revolver into her face. At about 3 a.m., Smith placed a 911 call from a bar. “2611 40th Place. Thank you,” was all Smith said, according to the recording played for the six-man, six-woman jury.
Two days after the homicide, Smith called his mother to check on Williams, knowing full well that his girlfriend of two years was dead, Haney said. Smith fled to Florida, where he was arrested on a traffic stop.
“That’s the kind of person who can kill someone and walk away – or run away, as he did,” Haney said.
At Haney’s request, deputy prosecutor Catherine Breitweiser-Hurst and Highland police Detective Ralph Potesta re-enacted the scenario Smith laid out in his testimony of how the shooting occurred. Smith said Williams was holding the gun and his hand was on top of it when they fell to the floor as she was backing up. Her hands were found closer to her sides, not near her face. Haney showed the jury some photographs of Williams’ hands, which had no blood spatter or gunpowder burns that were apparent on her face from the close-distance gunshot wound.
Defense attorney William Padula told jurors that the state had to prove that his client intended to kill Williams. Padula argued that Smith had no motive or reason to kill Williams. Testimony showed both Smith and Williams drank to excess and would argue when they were drinking.
“Their case requires you to guess, assume and speculate,” Padula said.
Jurors had the option of considering lesser offenses, including voluntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.