Richland murder trial: EMT casts doubt on accused killer’s claim

jmonk@thestate.comJuly 24, 2013 

— A paramedic who arrived at Almanita Smith’s house last August to find her dead in the front yard testified Wednesday he was surprised when her live-in boyfriend told him she had been alive the day before.

The body, found face-down, “was obviously in a state of decomposition,” Richland County Emergency Medical Services Cpl. Ethan Kinney told a county jury of seven women and five men.

After pronouncing Smith dead, Kinney testified, he and another paramedic took a statement from her boyfriend, Marcus Bailey.

Bailey told the paramedics Smith had been “out with some friends last night, that he never laid eyes on her, but he had heard her come and go throughout the house,” Kinney testified.

It seemed odd that Bailey would claim he heard Smith the day before, when her body was obviously in an advanced stage of decomposition, Kinney testified under questioning by prosecutor Kathryn Cavanaugh.

Kinney also testified that Bailey didn’t appear to be in any physical distress when he saw him that morning – an assertion that contradicted a claim Bailey’s lawyer, Stanley Myers, made to the jury Tuesday in opening arguments. Myers told the jury that Bailey had been so upset when he saw Smith’s dead body that he suffered a “panic attack” and had to be taken to the hospital.

Under cross-examination by another Bailey attorney, Jake Moore, Kinney testified he had taken Bailey to the hospital that day and Bailey had appeared “despondent.”

Kinney acknowledged paramedics had arrived on the scene 15-20 minutes after Smith’s body was found.

Did Kinney know “that when Marcus learned the body was in the yard, he collapsed to his knees, wrapped the woman in his arms, cradled her and rocked her?” Moore asked, using his question to present another version of events to the jury.

“I did not know that,” replied Kinney.

Bailey, 27, like Smith a U.S. Army Iraqi veteran, is on trial for murder in Smith’s death. The prosecution claims Bailey strangled Smith, 26, and kept her body for up to a week at her house on 613 Heron Glen Drive in Northeast Richland. Then, sometime just before the morning of Aug. 23, 2012, prosecutors say Bailey dumped her body in the front yard for neighbors to discover.

Much of Wednesday morning, Timothy Lee, a Richland County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene Unit senior investigator, explained to the jury why detectives believed Smith’s body was kept inside the house and then placed outside days after she was killed.

Lee’s testimony was attacked by defense attorney Myers, who during cross-examination got Lee to admit there was an absence of blood or other organic material inside the house to support the prosecution’s claim that a body had been there.

However, Lee testified that a police dog had picked up decomposing body odor on a blanket that had just been washed and dried inside the house. Detectives believe the blanket was used to wrap Smith’s body when Bailey transported it to the front yard, Lee testified.

Myers also used his cross-examination questions of Lee to show the jury the theory that someone besides Bailey killed Smith and threw her body in the front yard.

Smith’s body “was dumped from the road, was it not?” Myers asked.

“It appears she was dumped in the yard — I think you are speculating to say it came from the road,” Lee said, sticking to his testimony.

If convicted, Bailey could receive up to life in prison.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344

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