Judge mostly declines to suppress evidence in spousal murder
Alan Smith, 39, scheduled to go on trial in January, is charged with first-degree murder. His public defenders asked Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese to rule that police used seven flawed search warrants to build the case against him. They urged the judge to suppress evidence gathered from Smith’s home, body, bank, vehicles, cellphones, computers and other electronic devices.
The judge for the most part declined.
She ruled that police were overbroad in seeking some evidence.
For example, police sought all diary entries Smith had ever made regarding his personal relationships. But detectives proved they had enough reasons to look for evidence linked to the killing in nearly every place they searched, Krese said.
Snohomish County prosecutors allege that Smith in February 2013 beat, stabbed and drowned his wife after a year-long battle over divorce and child custody. Susann Smith, 37, was found inside her home with nearly two dozen injuries to her face and head.
Alan Smith no longer lived with his wife, but he moved back into the Bothell home, with a girlfriend, a short time later.
Krese on Thursday noted that when police approached him hours after the killing they noticed bruises, scrapes and other injuries on his hands. Detectives didn’t think his explanations stood scrutiny, including a claim that one of his children hit him with a hatchet.
The Boeing Co., where Smith was employed, provided police with access to company-owned computers and cellphones he had used. Web browsing history showed that Smith researched the availability of airline tickets to Venezuela for an adult and two children. After the Smiths’ kids were placed in protective custody following their mother’s death, the defendant researched tickets for an adult traveling alone.
In court papers, public defender Caroline Mann noted there is nothing criminally suspicious about searching for airline tickets.
That’s true, Krese said, but investigators also were entitled to make inferences based on context. Detectives considered the airline ticket research important because they believed Smith was preparing to flee to a country where he thought extradition would be unlikely.
Police filed their search warrants in court, and that made public their suspicions about Smith’s involvement in his wife’s killing. He reportedly crumbled under the pressure and allegedly confessed to the killing to an acquaintance, who told police, according to court papers.
The defense earlier made an unsuccessful attempt to bar that man’s testimony at trial, arguing Smith’s conversation with him was protected because the man is a licensed minister. The man told detectives that he wasn’t acting as a clergyman when Smith allegedly made the statements.
Smith remains locked up at the Snohomish County Jail, where he has spent a year.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snorthnews.
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