Baldwin murder victim shot thrice in head, police testify on first day of trial

BALDWIN — In the first day of proceedings, Lake County Prosecutor Michael V. Riley warned jurors that Andrew Jerome Smith’s murder trial would be a “real humdinger.”

This week, jurors will hear testimony about the Idlewild party that preceded Smith’s death, a car accident that police believe links the suspects to the roadside scene where Smith’s body was found and how suspects Jerome Anthony Lewis III and Arthur Leon Jones executed Smith by shooting him in the head three times, Riley said.

The jury was seated late Monday afternoon after many potential jurors were disqualified for having personal ties to the case or for having read coverage of the case in the Lake County Star and the Pioneer.

Defense attorneys John Greer and Christine Frisbie argued that the all-white jury was not an accurate representation of the population of Lake County, adding that it could be detrimental to the case, in which the suspects and the victim are all African American. Greer noted only four of the potential jurors presented on Monday were African American.

Because the jury pool is selected randomly according to drivers licenses, “the opportunity for a fair cross-section was as best as there could be,” said Judge Mark Wickens. Each African American potential jurors who made it to the jury box was excused for having a personal connection to those involved in the case, including one woman who knew Smith personally.

Jurors were presented with graphic photos of Smith’s body and the scene where it was discovered on July 23, 2011, by Thomas Gum, an employee for a repossession company who was in the area to repossess a car.

Gum, now a resident of the Bay City area, testified that he grew up near Baldwin and is familiar with the area, but was having trouble locating a road that morning. When he drove past Smith’s body on 72nd Street, he assumed the man needed help and circled back.

“I’m from the area, and to be honest, I’ve seen people passed out drunk on the side of the road,” Gum testified. “When I came back to see if the guy was awake, I saw the blood.”

It was nearly 8 a.m. when Gum called 9-1-1 and blocked the road with his truck. Dispatchers instructed him to approach the body to see if the chest was moving from breathing. They then instructed Gum to touch an area of skin to see if the body was cold. Gum described Smith’s skin as cool, adding that the area that morning was foggy with temperatures in the 60s.

Several law enforcement agencies investigated the scene, including the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police.

Undersheriff Rick Perrin, who acts as a the county’s death scene investigator for the Medical Examiner’s Office, presented images of the scene Gum discovered. Smith sustained three gunshot wounds to the head, Perrin said — one on each side of the head and one on the top, possibly indicating that Smith had slumped following the first two shots and took the third from below the shooter.

Perrin said in the 10 years he has worked as the death scene investigator, he has investigated 200 to 300 other deaths, mostly suicides and accidental deaths. This was his first homicide investigation. He was assisted by the Michigan State Police Crime Lab. A representative from the lab will testify later this week.

Michigan State Police Trooper Don Dutcher, a car crash technician, also responded to the scene, where he documented the path of a car involved in a crash in the area just hours before Smith’s body was found. He also presented evidence of a blood trail leading from Smith’s body down 72nd Street.

Proceedings will continue at 9 a.m. on Tuesday in Lake County’s 51st Circuit Court in Baldwin.