Assistant District Attorney General Paul Newman questions Murfreesboro Police Detective James Abbott today in a preliminary hearing for first-degree murder suspect Anthony P. Smith in General Sessions Court. Photo by Sam Stockard
A first-degree murder charge in connection with a purported methamphetamine drug robbery was bound over to the grand jury today.
Anthony P. Smith, 22, of Short Creek Road in Christiana, is charged with first-degree murder in the April 8 shooting death of Christopher Turley, 23, at an East Clark Boulevard apartment complex. Turley’s body was found lying in the parking lot of Stonewood Apartments early that morning after people involved with the incident called 911.
After Smith was targeted as a suspect, he admitted to shooting Turley, according to his arrest warrant.
During a preliminary hearing, General Sessions Judge David Loughry found probable cause to send the case to the July 21 session of the grand jury to determine whether Smith should be indicted.
Murfreesboro Police Detective James Abbott testified in the hearing that police believe Smith shot Turley in the head from a balcony with a stolen Ruger 9 mm when he ran from the apartment into the parking lot after a fight broke out that morning.
Officers arrived at the scene at 5:02 a.m. and found Turley’s body lying in the parking lot. The weapon, which jammed because it was equipped with a .380 magazine, according to Abbott, was found on a stairway.
The bullet went through Turley’s head at a downward angle from the back to the forehead, Abbott testified.
Detectives initially believed a man named Mattew Parham was the shooting suspect based on statements given to police at the scene, Abbott testified during questioning by defense attorney Will Fraley.
Not until after Smith was treated at the hospital for an injury to the thumb and taken to the police station for a statement did he tell police that he had something to do with the shooting. He then gave a statement implicating himself after being read his rights, Abbott testified.
Smith initially told police that Turley and Parham came to the residence and that Turley was acting weird, “flagged up,” before they attacked him with a hammer and knife. Smith told police one of them had on a coat and a pistol fell out, which he grabbed and used to defend himself.
Police, however, searched Smith’s cell phone and found pictures of the gun believed to be the murder weapon, as well as a rifle, both of which were stolen in March from a Christiana home.
“We don’t believe he told the truth about who had the gun,” Abbott testified. “He stated it was self-defense.”
Based on the investigation, Parham and Turley were running from the scene when Turley was shot in the head, Abbott said.
Parham told police several people were coming and going from the apartment that night and methamphetamine was being snorted and injected, according to testimony. Police found tin foil and a straw at the scene.
Turley wanted to go to the apartment of Matthew Braswell and Vanessa Cleveland to follow up on an earlier altercation, and he talked about robbing Smith, according to Parham’s statement.
“Apparently, this was a dispute about drugs and money,” Abbott testified.
According to Parham’s statement, Smith and Turley were both snorting meth, then Turley picked up a hammer and began attacking Smith. Parham said he grabbed Smith to break up the fight but then he pulled out a knife, which he said he didn’t open.
Parham told police someone said “get a strap,” or a gun, so he fled the scene, then heard a gunshot, turned around and looked in the parking lot and thought he saw clump of clothing. He later found out it was Turley’s body.
Smith was on the phone talking to an ex-girlfriend when the incident happened, testimony showed.
Abbott said police aren’t certain if Smith made any threats before the shooting.
“We’re not sure if it was a blow-up or a robbery,” Abbott said.
Statements conflicted over whether Smith pulled the gun from his coat or grabbed it from a table, but he admitted to police he fired the weapon, the detective said.
Only one shot was fired before the gun malfunctioned because of an improper magazine. Only possible fragments of the bullet were found, according to testimony.