September 30, 2014

Elyria
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Jury to hear murder case

ELYRIA — Willie Evans IV said Friday that he won’t plead guilty to a murder he didn’t commit.

If the 18-year-old doesn’t change his mind about a plea bargain today, a jury will decide whether he pulled the trigger of a 9 mm pistol that police say fired the fatal shot that killed retired steelworker Michael Smith.

Evans — who was 16 at the time of the killing, but is being tried as an adult — said he’s not going to budge despite the evidence against him, including eyewitnesses to the killing, codefendants who may testify against him and a failed lie detector test.

“I know for sure I didn’t kill that man or rob him,” Evans told county Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery during a hearing Friday.

Evans insisted he wasn’t trying to be tough or prove anything, he simply wasn’t responsible for Smith’s death.

“I’m just relying on the facts,” he said. “I didn’t kill that man.”

Paul Griffin, Evans’ attorney, said just because Evans failed a lie detector test doesn’t mean he’s guilty of the aggravated murder and other charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

“Obviously that makes our case a lot harder to try, but those polygraphs aren’t infallible,” he said.

Griffin said Evans was outside Smith’s Lorain home  with Tyrone Young, 19, and Barry Williams, 20, who also are charged in what police have called a random robbery, when Smith was shot April 13, 2006, but Evans wasn’t involved in the robbery or the shooting.

Smith had gone outside to move his wife’s car when police say he was shot in the stomach and forced into the trunk of the car. He died about 2½ hours after he was found.

Williams has agreed to testify against Evans, Griffin said, and Young — who was extradited from Alabama, where he was serving a prison sentence for robbery, to face charges in connection with Smith’s death — also has tried to work out a plea agreement to blame Evans for the slaying.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said the case is strong against Evans.

“We don’t prosecute if we don’t believe the person is guilty,” he said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.