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8:18 AM Fri, Oct. 19th

Trial of Golden Valley murder suspect continues

The lead homicide investigator in the shooting death of a Golden Valley man two years ago took the stand Tuesday in the murder trial of Chip Moray Smith.

Smith faces a felony first-degree murder charge in the August 2001 shooting death of Chris Darren Payton.

Payton was shot late at night while driving his pickup truck on Santa Maria Road, north of Chino Drive.

Mohave County Sheriff's Office Detective Steve Parker testified about his interview with Ashley Holmes, the murder trial's first witness.

Holmes told Parker how Smith, 32, drove them from Payton's residence to where Payton was driving up and down Santa Maria Road, how Smith slammed on his brakes and grabbing a rifle, went to Payton's truck window and after arguing with him shot him once.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Lee Jantzen asked Parker if Holmes was concerned that she was the only person who told police what happened the night of Aug.

12, 2001.

Parker testified that he interviewed Holmes' boyfriend, Steve Richards, but was never able to locate the other person in Smith's car at the time of the shooting, Jacquelyn Butler.

Richards will not be called to testify as a witness at the trial.

Parker also said that the gun found in the desert was tested for DNA, fingerprints and ballistics, all which proved conclusive.

Payton, 39, of Golden Valley was thought to be a victim of the fatal accident after his pickup truck flipped over while traveling on Santa Maria Road in the early morning hours of Aug.

13, 2001.

An autopsy later that day revealed a bullet wound to Payton's forehead and his death was ruled a homicide.

A bullet from the 9mm rifle believed used to kill Payton was later found in an unoccupied home near the shooting scene, but was too fragmented to be conclusive evidence.

Jantzen tried anyway to tie the rifle to Smith by asking Parker how he discovered the weapon.

Parker testified that Amber Rucker gave the gun to Gerald Scaff, who is now in custody at the Department of Corrections.

Rucker was with Smith when he was arrested at Payton's home several days after the shooting.

Smith was being held in custody in county jail for probation violation when he was charged with the murder.

As with his cross examination with Holmes last week, Smith's Flagstaff attorney, Michael Hruby, asked Parker if he was aware of Smith's poor eyesight.

Parker said no.

Hruby also asked Parker if he canvassed the neighborhood where the shooting took place.

"I did so with negative results the next day," Parker said.

Hruby asked if he returned to canvass the area during non-working hours to which Parker said he did not.

Parker was also asked if he returned to the crime scene after the murder at about the same time of night to understand the lighting conditions.

Parker said he did not but he had been in the area previously on another criminal matter.

"At that exact spot?" Hruby asked.

"Actually, yes," Parker said.

Hruby then asked Parker to describe Smith's emotional condition at the time of arrest.

Hruby said that Smith was drinking heavily the two days since the shooting and that he was grieving for his best friend, Payton.

Parker only described Smith's answers during his interview with Parker following his arrest as "evasive."

Hruby also pointed out that the woman, whose house Holmes and Richards were dropped off at by Smith and Butler after the shooting, said she did not know the four came to her house.

Holmes testified last week that Smith and Butler dropped Holmes and Richards off then left with the gun in another car.

Hruby wondered about the discrepancy between Holmes' testimony and the woman's statements to police.

Parker answered that the woman only said she was not aware that the four had gone to her residence.

The trial is expected to last the remaining of the week.

The county attorney's office has previously stated they it would not seek the death penalty against Smith.