Smith's third murder trial in final stages

State bases case on taped confession, while defense tries to discredit witnesses

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2003

ANCHORAGE -- Attorneys in the third trial of accused murderer Billy D. Smith presented closing arguments in Anchorage Thursday. The state will be allowed to counter the defense arguments prior to jury deliberations, which are expected to begin today.

Smith is on trial for the March 27, 1994, murders of Harold Enzler, 39, of Nikiski, and Nancy Bellamy, 42, of Homer.

Two earlier attempts to try Smith ended in mistrials being declared by Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link--one in Anchorage in October when the jury could not agree on a verdict and one in Kenai in September when a witness testified that he had taken a lie detector test as part of a plea arrangement to reduce charges relating to his own involvement in the crime.

Polygraph test results are not admissible as evidence in Alaska courts, and the defense attorney argued that when the witness said he agreed to taking the test and was later given a deal, he led jurors to believe what he said. The jurors would believe the witness to be a truthful person, the attorney said.

The planned defense had been to discredit that witness and other state witnesses.

The Anchorage jury in October did convict Smith of three counts of tampering with physical evidence, namely the bodies of Enzler and Bellamy, and with dismantling the truck in which the couple was allegedly shot to death on an isolated road in Nikiski. The bodies were never found.

After denying seven motions by Smith for a mistrial Thursday, Judge Link called in the jury of eight men and six women, informing them of the order in which closing arguments would be presented.

Through all three trials, Smith has been permitted by Judge Link to personally explain why Smith felt a mistrial should be declared. Smith's reasons have ranged from his perception that the district attorney has called the defense attorney a liar, to his belief that the jury has not been given proper procedural instructions.

Judge Link has denied all of Smith's requests for mistrials.

''In a few minutes, this case will be yours to decide," assistant district attorney John Wolfe told jurors Thursday.

''From the state's perspective, this is a fairly simple case ... once you cut through the smoke,'' he said, referring to the case presented by the defense.

The state's case is based on a taped confession by Smith to investigators in August 1997, during which Smith said he lured Enzler and Bellamy to Escape Route Road near Nikiski, shot them and later cut up their bodies, dumping them in Cook Inlet.

Smith also confessed to dismantling the truck in which they were killed and burying its parts in numerous locations around the Kenai Peninsula.

During his closing arguments, Wolfe replayed several excerpts from that confession, including Smith's statement, ''I shot 'em both.''

''I suggest these are the words of a cold-blooded killer,'' said Wolfe.

''Mr. Smith confessed to murder.

''Mr. Smith had motive to kill these people. He had a drug operation that was being threatened,'' said Wolfe.

The attorney said earlier that Smith believed Bellamy was working with police to convict Smith of distributing drugs on the peninsula.

Wolfe played another part of the confession tape in which Smith told investigators, ''I took 'em to Escape Route Road and I shot 'em.''

''I ask you to seriously consider the evidence in this case and hold the defendant accountable for his crime,'' said Wolfe.

Defense attorney Robert Herz had a different perspective.

''This case is about who the real shooter is and it's about a false confession,'' he countered.

Herz has repeatedly said Smith confessed to the murders in order to get out of jail to get a much needed heroin fix.

Smith made his confession after being arrested on cocaine possession charges and, according to Herz, told police he would help them with other drug trade investigations in exchange for his release from jail.

Herz told jurors that because Smith was withdrawing from his heroin addiction, ''He would tell police anything to get out of jail to get his fix of heroin.''

Saying others had motives for killing Enzler and Bellamy, Herz told jurors it was not their job to solve the case.

Herz said Mimi Enzler, ex-wife of Harold Enzler and girlfriend of the accused, had motive. He said Dennis "Ray J" Johnson and Bruce Brown, convicted accomplices in the evidence tampering crimes, had motives. And, he said Johnson and Brown both got deals from the state in exchange for testifying against Smith.

''Ray J cut a deal to do away with murder charges against himself,'' said Herz. ''He got away with murder.

"If you're left with a reasonable doubt, you have to acquit.

''There are a lot of reasons to believe the confession is false. Their are no reliable eye witnesses. There is a lot of reasonable doubt,'' said Herz.

After the state counters the defense closing arguments this morning, the jury will begin deliberations.

The jury has agreed to deliberate through the weekend, if necessary, to reach a verdict.

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