August 23, 2014

Elyria
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Evans found guilty

ELYRIA — It took jurors in Willie Evans IV’s aggravated murder trial only an additional hour on Tuesday to convict Evans of nearly all the charges leveled against him — charges that could send him to prison for life.

The jury of nine women and three men had deliberated about five hours Monday before breaking for the day.

Evans barely reacted as the verdict was read in county Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery’s courtroom. His supporters and the family and friends of victim Michael Smith also were subdued as the verdict was read.

CHUCK HUMEL / CHRONICLE
Willie Evans IV was convicted of aggravated murder in Common Pleas Court on Tuesday.

“He got a bad deal,” said a friend of Evans, who declined to give his name.

Carolyn Smith, the 64-year-old retired steelworker’s widow, said she had prayed for her husband’s killers to be caught and punished.

“To me, God was in control,” she said. “I’m relieved with the verdict.”

Carolyn Smith said she continues to live in the Lorain neighborhood where her husband was gunned down April 13, 2006, as he was moving her car, which she had left in the street at his request while he attended the horse races. She said she now has bars on her windows.

“I don’t feel safe, but at the moment I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Smith also said it’s up to God, not her, to forgive Evans, who will be sentenced next Wednesday.

“I don’t feel hatred (toward him),” she said.

Even though Evans, who prosecutors said fired the fatal shot during the random robbery, has been convicted, the case is far from over. Barry Williams and Tyrone Young still face aggravated murder and other charges in connection with the killing.

Williams testified against Evans, saying when he looked back over his shoulder as he fled the scene he saw Evans pointing the gun at Michael Smith. A moment later he said he heard a shot.

Williams will serve a 13-year prison sentence in exchange for that testimony, but Young doesn’t appear to have a cut a deal with prosecutors.

Like Evans, Young has maintained his innocence, said his aunt, Luevenia Bailey.

“He said he wasn’t there for the killing,” Bailey said as she wiped away tears after the verdict.

During the trial, Evans, who was a juvenile at the time of the killing, but tried as an adult, testified that he had been walking with his uncle when he spotted Young and Williams robbing Smith and fled the scene shortly after that. He said he saw Williams aiming the gun at Smith and shortly after hearing the gunshot saw Young fleeing nearly a block away.

But jurors didn’t appear to have taken Evans, who failed a lie detector test during which he also denied shooting Smith, at his word. Evans was convicted of aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and two counts each of felonious assault and aggravated robbery. The jury cleared him of a single additional charge of aggravated murder.

“It was the right (verdict),” the jury foreman said as he and the other jurors left the county Justice Center.

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