Testimony continues in retrial of former assistant fire chief

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The retrial of a former Brookhaven assistant fire chief on sixcounts of aggravated assault had a new twist Tuesday when FredSmith’s wife testified, but it was unclear whether JacquelineSmith’s conflicting testimony would help the prosecution ordefense.

Smith was convicted of shooting into a vehicle in March, but thejury failed to reach a conclusion on the aggravated assaultcharges.

Smith was accused of firing into a vehicle containing hisstepdaughter, three of her cousins and two children on ThanksgivingDay 2004 during a domestic dispute.

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No one was injured in the incident.

The former fireman has not denied firing into the vehicle, butsays no one was in the vehicle at the time he shot into it.

Jacqueline Smith’s testimony on the stand Tuesday contradicted awritten statement she provided to investigating officers the dayafter the incident.

Tuesday, she supported the actions of her daughter, SheenaTillman, against her husband of less than one month at the time ofthe incident.

Jacqueline Smith testified she usually celebrated Thanksgivingwith her family and prepared a few dishes for the gathering, butdid not attend, at Fred Smith’s suggestion they spend the holidaytogether. Her family and her husband did not have a positiverelationship.

Sheena Tillman, 25, and a few cousins came over earlier in theday and Jacqueline Smith met them outside and gave her daughtersome beer.

“They came back 30 or 45 minutes later,” she said.

Sheena Tillman, her 4-year-old son, three of her cousins, and asecond young boy were allowed inside by Fred Smith, JacquelineSmith said, and they all sat down in the living room.

An argument quickly ensued between Tillman and Fred Smith aboutwho would watch Tillman’s son during the day. Tillman wanted theSmiths to watch the child so she could enjoy some “adult time” withher cousins. Jacqueline Smith has custody of the child and receivesa monthly Social Security check on his behalf.

It was unclear in testimonies offered by Jacqueline Smith andTillman how the visitors got outside the home, whether they wentoutside willingly or were coerced, but the verbal fight continuedin the driveway of the Smith’s 300 Greenwood Lane home and resultedin Fred Smith firing several times into a car owned by one of thecousins.

Eleven bullet holes were found in the car by investigators,according to testimony at the March trial.

Jacqueline Smith said she saw her daughter and the others in thevehicle and was worried that Fred Smith would kill them.

The day after the incident, however, Jacqueline Smith wrote astatement laying the blame for the incident on her daughter with arecount of events that matched those of her husband, who took thestand in the March trial.

In the statement, she wrote that Fred Smith shot into the air,but they still wouldn’t leave so he shot into the vehicle.

“He wasn’t trying to shoot them,” she said in the statement.

Jacqueline Smith said the conflicting testimony was because ofstress when questioned by Gus Sermos, who represents Smith.

“Things happened so fast and I was suffering from post traumaticstress at the time,” she said.

Prosecutors also questioned Tillman Tuesday, who repeatedprevious testimony that she was in the vehicle at the time.

Sermos got an angry retort from Tillman during his questioningwhen he asked if the beer Tillman had received from her motherearlier could have been purchased from the Social Securitymoney.

“Does she buy yours?” Tillman shot back before Circuit JudgeMike Taylor intervened.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Dwayne Burns,investigator Johnny Hall and neighbor Maxine Allen also testifiedTuesday, repeating previous testimony.

Much of the testimony offered by the prosecution was directed atwhich handgun was used by Fred Smith when he shot into the vehicle.All of the prosecution witnesses said the weapon used was not thesame as the one he initially threatened the victims with nor was itthe one he provided to officers when asked to provide the weaponused.

A ballistics report from the Mississippi Crime Lab, which thedefense stipulated to allow, said the bullets in the vehicle didnot match the 9mm Beretta Fred Smith had in his possession whenBurns arrived on the scene.

The Beretta had a full clip, Burns said. However, another 9mmhandgun found in the home held only two rounds of a 15-roundclip.

In the March trial, the prosecution attempted to prove that FredSmith deliberately shot into the vehicle with the visitors insideand then swapped handguns to either continue the assault or to hidethe weapon to avoid charges.

The trial continues on Wednesday.