Richland investigator: Alibis crumbled after girlfriend’s body found on lawn

jmonk@thestate.comJuly 30, 2013 

— The lead Richland County Sheriff’s Department investigator told a jury in an ongoing murder trial Tuesday that Marcus Bailey’s alibis began to fall apart just hours after neighbors found Almanita Smith’s decomposed body on the lawn of the house where the two lived.

To begin with, Bailey – alerted by neighbors’ screams that a body was in the front yard – came out of the house in Northeast Richland and immediately went to the body and hugged it because he said he knew it was Smith, investigator Rob Martin testified.

“I didn’t know Almanita, but ... she was so badly decomposed and swollen up, that to say that was Almanita, that didn’t make sense,” testified Martin, saying the body bore no resemblance to the petite 5 foot 4 inch, 120-pound vivacious woman who had been missing for a week.

Then, an hour or so later, Bailey was composed and calm when Martin interviewed him. “It was more like what was going on in his life rather than what was going on with Almanita,” Martin told the jury under questioning by prosecutor Luck Campbell of the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

The murder trial in last August’s death and disappearance of Smith, 26, is going into its eighth day Wednesday.

Prosecutors contend Bailey, 27, an unemployed Army veteran of the war in Iraq who had been Smith’s lover and lived rent free at her house, strangled her. Then, they say, he hid her body in the house for a week before dumping it in the yard at 513 Heron Glen Drive. Smith, 26, had a degree from Columbia College and, like Bailey, was an Army veteran of the war in Iraq.

Another reason investigators quickly believed that Bailey killed Smith was that he told them he had seen her every day from last Aug. 16, a Thursday, through Aug. 22, the next Wednesday and the day before her body was discovered.

But by Aug. 23, the body was “breaking down into soil” and there was no way Smith could have been alive the day before the body was discovered, Martin testified.

Bailey insisted he had talked to Smith every day up to and including Aug. 22, Martin testified.

“I said I didn’t doubt it – but she didn’t talk back,” Martin testified.

Although other prosecution witnesses have told the jury about air fresheners at the house, Martin’s testimony was among the most vivid to date.

“It was like a slap in the face, there was so much air freshener,” Martin testified. All kinds of air fresheners were being used – burning incense, timer scent sprays, candles and commercial-grade fresheners too. Prosecutors contend Bailey used the fresheners to cover up decomposition odors.

The defense has yet to present its case. Jake Moore, one of Bailey’s three lawyers, told the jury last week Bailey might not take the stand. Defense lawyer Stanley Myers has cross-examined some prosecution witnesses in an effort to show that someone else could have dumped Smith’s body on the lawn.

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