Accused killer testifies before jury deliberates
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Arguments concluded in the afternoon, and his fate is now in the hands of that jury, considering the murder charge against him.
Smith, 60, testified in Clallam County Superior Court that he was in “complete terror” when he fired several shots at an enraged, knife-wielding Fowler.
Fowler, 63, was bleeding on the floor of Smith’s Port Angeles residence when Smith shot him in the head with a .45-caliber pistol on June 20, 2011.
Smith testified in his first-degree, premeditated murder trial that Fowler was moving his mouth and limbs when he took the final shot.
“I’m horribly sorry that the person who was attacking me died,” Smith said.
“I did not want to kill him, but I had to defend myself and my daughter.”
The trial began with jury selection Oct. 7.
Smith said he was studying the Bible’s Book of Romans when his next door neighbor and friend of about two months knocked unusually forcefully on his front door.
Once inside, Fowler demanded $20.
When Smith said he didn’t carry cash, an angry Fowler grabbed a large hunting knife off a nearby coffee table and threatened to cut Smith’s throat, according to Smith’s testimony.
“He picks it up and he says, ‘Give me your money or I’ll cut your throat and find it!’” Smith said.
Smith’s daughter, Bethany, was in an upstairs bedroom when Fowler came to the house.
“I was in fear for my life and my daughter’s life because I was in my home,” said Smith, a Navy veteran.
“It’s like being inside of a submarine. There’s no place to run.”
In a recorded police interview that was played to the jury last week, Smith said he pointed the gun at Fowler’s midsection when Fowler attacked him.
Smith shot twice, drawing blood from Fowler’s left shoulder, and kept firing as Fowler scrambled up the stairs.
“I was scared to death,” Smith told defense attorney Karen Unger.
“My daughter’s at the top of those stairs.”
Fowler came back down the stairs and walked toward Smith, who pointed at Fowler and fired another round.
After Fowler fell forward to the ground, Smith walked up to Fowler and shot him in the head from three to four feet away.
An autopsy revealed that Smith died a gunshot wound to the brain stem.
“I just fired and fired until the deadly weapon was stopped,” Smith said.
“As soon as the deadly weapon was stopped, that’s when I stopped.”
Smith phoned 9-1-1 immediately after the shooting. Police found the hunting knife near Fowler’s right hand.
Under cross examination, Smith told Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ann Lundwall that he targeted Fowler’s head because its was “center mass” for his angle and because it was his best chance to end the threat.
Lundwall probed for inconsistencies in the statements that Smith made to Port Angeles police and Texas investigators as she tried to prove that Fowler’s death was premeditated.
Lundwall asked Smith whether any part of what he did was an overreaction.
“No,” Smith responded.
Police did not arrest Smith until a preliminary investigation was complete. By that time, he and his daughter moved to Amarillo, Texas.
Smith was arrested at an Amarillo motel in late September and flown back to Port Angeles.
He has been held in the Clallam County jail since Oct. 12, 2011, and has been there longer than any other inmate.
Smith testified that he grew leery of Fowler because of his spastic movements and because Fowler had boasted about cutting people’s throats during and after the Vietnam War.
“He was unbelievably quick,” said Smith, adding that Fowler had claimed his lethal hands were registered by the government.
Fowler had told Smith that he had killed a Marine officer by punching him in the neck.
Smith said his neighbor’s military discharge papers revealed that he had been kicked out of the Marines after less than a year.
In the recorded interview with Port Angeles police detective Jason Viada, Smith said Fowler had stabbed a mattress because someone living inside the mattress or under the bed was having sex with his wife.
“I had come to question about everything he said,” Smith said.
Unger asked Smith if he was sure that Fowler had picked up the knife.
“I’m as sure as you’re wearing a blue dress,” Smith said through a Texas accent.
“I’m as sure as I’m sitting here a black suit. I am absolutely positive.”
On re-direct examination, Unger asked Smith if he wanted to see his neighbor dead.
“I have never wanted that, and I wish it wasn’t that way today,” Smith said.
“I never wanted to shoot anybody in my life.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: October 14. 2013 6:42PM