Charges to be dismissed after death of defendant in murder case

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Charles Smithart died over the weekend of lung cancer, which means he won't be facing another trial on charges he raped and killed 11-year-old Mandy Lemaire near Tazlina nearly a decade ago.

Alaska law requires that the charges against Smithart be dismissed.

''It literally and figuratively moots the case,'' Assistant District Attorney James Fayette said about Smithart's death.

The 70-year-old Smithart had been battling his illness at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage since October.

Smithart was convicted in 1993 of abducting, raping and shooting Lemaire to death two years earlier.

He was sentenced to 114 years in prison, but Smithart and his family never stopped insisting on his innocence.

The Alaska Supreme Court reversed his conviction last year, ruling that Smithart's defense should have been given more leeway to attack a prosecution witness during the trial.

The victim's father, David Lemaire, said Tuesday he and his family are deeply frustrated to have the conviction overturned on a ''technicality.''

''Mr. Smithart now goes before the final judge -- one who knows all and sees all,'' Lemaire said in a statement. ''This judge he won't accuse of prejudice, he won't yell at or lie to.

''The only other witness to the crime has lived with the judge for 9 1/2 years. Mr. Smithart apparently leaves this world unrepentant, and that is not a good way to approach the final judge.''

At a new trial next year, Smithart would have presented new DNA findings and other evidence that he did not kill the girl, defense attorney Andrew Lambert said.

''I'm sorry Charlie passed away,'' Lambert said. ''I wish he would have had an opportunity to finally vindicate himself. I don't think he's guilty. I never did.''

But Fayette said the state's case against Smithart remained as strong as ever.

''The troopers did a phenomenal job investigating,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''Did we have a compelling case to present? You bet.''

Even without another conviction, Lemaire said he and his family believe Smithart now will face appropriate punishment from God.

''I think the most comfort is the fact that we know where our daughter is,'' he said. ''She's with a loving God, and he's going to take care of her.''

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