Jurors will decide the case after a three-day recess
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - "It all happened so fast," Greg Smith testified repeatedly, uttering the phrase more than a dozen times Thursday morning after he took the stand in an effort to bolster his own defense to the charge of second-degree murder that he is facing as the result of the April 2015 shooting which cost Springfield resident Wesley Wing his life.
Prosecutors maintain that Smith was incensed after he learned that Wing had just yelled at Smith's girlfriend, Wendy Morris, about her alleged drug involvements tarnishing the neighborhood around Springfield's high school. They allege that Smith set out to find Wing and within minutes pulled his car up in front of Wing and gunned him down as he was walking along a sidewalk on South Street in broad daylight.
After being sworn in Thursday morning, Smith sat in the witness box and painted a different picture of events, telling the jury that he had an incomplete understanding of what had transpired between Wing and Morris when he left the house in a brand new black Nissan Infiniti and followed Morris' car as she headed back toward Jake's Market on South Street.
Greg Smith, 32, who is on trial for second-degree murder, became teary eyed Thursday when he described the thoughts going through his head as he drove away. "Everything...my daughter...the rest of my life," was on his mind, Smith said.
Smith said that after he failed to notice anyone out of the ordinary during his first pass down the street he turned around in the parking lot of Jake's intending to head back home where he and his young daughter had been raking leaves in their backyard when he suddenly spotted Wesley Wing walking on the grass next to the sidewalk among some trees at the intersection of Cheryl Lane and South Street.
Smith said the windows on the Infiniti, a car which he said he'd been allowed to use for a few weeks as part of a trade for heroin with a friend of his who worked at a local dealership, were already rolled down and so he slowed and asked Wing, "Are you the guy who just yelled at my girl?"
Smith said Wing immediately threw his hands wide in a confrontational gesture and replied, "Yeah! So?"
Smith testified that he didn't want to be engaged in an argument on busy South Street so he in turn gestured to Wing to meet him on Cheryl Lane and then pushed the high performance car into an "aggressive turn" that brought him onto the side street.
Prosecutor Ultan Doyle looks on as Smith describes how he parked his car on Cheryl Lane in Springfield
Smith said that when he glanced in the mirror he saw Wing approaching from about "three paces away" and decided he'd better get out of the car.
Pressed by Vermont Assistant Attorney General Ultan Doyle as to whether he felt "threatened" at that point, Smith went back-and-forth saying he felt there might be a loud argument in the offing but not a physical fight.
Smith, who admitted that he was in the midst of a "60 bag a day" heroin habit that April, said when he went to open the driver's side door he couldn't get it to unlock. "There were about a hundred buttons on that thing," Smith testified, saying that during the split seconds he looked down Wing suddenly sucker punched him near his mouth and then again on his left temple before he said Wing leaned in through the open driver's window and forced his head forward into his steering wheel, causing Smith to panic.
Prosecutors maintain that Wing was at least four feet away from the car door and perhaps as far as ten feet away, when they say Smith aimed the .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol out the window at him and banged off five shots in rapid succession, three of which pierced Wing's torso while the other two grazed Wing's hands which they said he might have held forward in front of himself in an instinctive defensive reflex. Three shell casings and several bullet projectiles were recovered from the pavement and the nearby grassy lawn around where the car had been parked.
Smith testified that he never put the gun out the window, instead he said that he was able to reach down between his seat and the center console of the Infiniti to where his holstered gun was tucked with a bullet already chambered but the safety on and pull the gun free, unlatch the safety and then aim the gun at the center of Wing's body as he said he pushed Wing's shoulder up against the ceiling of the driver's compartment with his left hand while opening fire with the pistol in his right hand.
Wesley Wing's mother Terry hugged her daughter-in-law Sheila Wing in court as Smith described his decision to fire
Pressed by Doyle to explain things like the precise angle the gun was pointed, the distance between the gun and Wing, the number of shots fired and the arm movements each of the men were supposedly making at the time Smith repeatedly answered that he couldn't be exact because "Everything happened so fast."
Smith said that in the seconds after he fired it seemed like he had shot Wing but that he couldn't be sure because Wing recoiled back from the car window and took off, running behind the Infiniti and then on up the street.
Witnesses at Jake's Market just a few yards away told police they heard the burst of five shots and then almost immediately saw Wing staggering toward the store where he pushed the door open even as he doubled over and collapsed onto the floor just inside.
Smith told the jury Thursday that he had no idea what had happened to Wing or whether he had shot or missed him, describing him as there attacking him one moment and then running away the next after the shots were fired.
Prosecutor Doyle pressed Smith as to why, if he wasn't even sure Wing was hit, Smith had admitted that he immediately sped off down South Street back to his house, grabbed his phone and some more heroin, and then drove to an ex-girlfriend's house in Keene, New Hampshire while making the effort to break the gun down into component pieces which he threw out the car window along the way.
Smith suggested that he was not doing all that in an effort to avoid police and prosecution but rather because he was terrified of becoming "dope sick" and said he was trying to get to somewhere he "knew he would be safe" and able to access a supply of heroin while he decided what to do next. Smith said it was not until much later that night that he learned the shooting was the talk of Springfield and that Wing had died that evening as a result.
Smith claimed that in the five days he was at large following the shooting he was in the process of weaning himself down off the large amounts of heroin that he had been taking in order to get himself into the kind of shape where he could turn himself in to authorities. Smith said that while he and his girlfriend were hiding in a camper on a property near the Magic Mountain ski area he stepped his daily heroin down from 60 to 15 bags a day, noting that he had already injected the drug on the morning of April 23rd, 2015 before state police troopers knocked on the camper door and took the couple into custody.
Following the state's cross-examination, Smith's defense attorneys declined their opportunity to re-examine him on the stand and instead rested their case, bringing the main portion of the trial to a close in less than four days time. The speed of the trial this week, considering the case took almost three years to make it to the courtroom in the first place, came as a surprise to the court which had penciled in two or more weeks for what were expected to have been many more witnesses on both sides.
Because of some unusual scheduling issues, Smith's murder case will now take a three-day-long break and resume again first thing on Monday morning with closing arguments from both sides before it goes to the jury for a decision.
Smith has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest nearly three years ago and, if he were to be convicted of the second-degree murder charge, he would face a presumptive 20-years-to-life under Vermont's sentencing guidelines.
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