BREAKING: St Thomas man charged with murder in 2021 shooting of his partner

UPDATE (3:35PM): Pennsylvania State Police have release the name of Smith’s partner involved in the shooting. Troopers say that Rhonda Mae Smith, Michael Smith’s wife, was shot and killed by the latter on March 29th, 2021.

22 August 2023- New evidence, including a gunshot residue test and a recording phone conversation at the Franklin County Jail, have lead to the charging of a St Thomas man with murder in the death of his partner. Michael Scott Smith Jr is charged with criminal homicide and has been denied bail by MDJ Eyer, with the latter listing his reasoning as “No amount of money or conditions will keep public safe”.

Pennsylvania State Troopers were called to the scene of a shooting death of a woman in Saint Thomas on March 29th, 2021. The partner of the woman, Michael Smith Jr, was detained and transported the PSP-Chambersburg for an interview.

The interview was conducted around two hours after the shooting death, with Smith waiving his rights and speaking to Troopers. During the interview, Smith allegedly told police that he had been getting cigarettes with the victim when she accused him of using a fake Facebook account to contact other women. One important detail reportedly is the fact Smith’s partner was trying to contact LIHEAP for heating assistance but had to use Smith’s phone due to hers being broken. Smith continued, saying that the victim removed a black 9mm handgun from the center console of the truck and put it on her lap during the conversation. The victim then exited the vehicle and reportedly started waving her arms around with the gun in her had.

Vitally to the investigation, Smith allegedly told police that he was walking away from the victim and was about 4 feet away from her when he heard a gunshot, turned around, and caught the victim as she was falling. Smith said that the gun must have went off accidentally or by suicide. When police informed Smith that the victim was pronounced dead, he allegedly began sobbing.

Smith was subsequently charged with firearm and obstruction charges and has been in reprimand of the Franklin County Jail since. Police were alerted to a phone call between Smith and a man who investigators believe was his father on July 17th, 2023. During the call, the timeline again became murky when Smith’s father commented that his son didn’t pull the trigger because “he wasn’t even out there”. Smith allegedly said in the taped call that he was on the porch, directly contradicting what he previously told investigators. Additionally, police were able to determined from the victim’s phone that she was utilizing her own cell number to contact LIHEAP and not Smith’s, as was previously alleged during the initial interview.

Police investigators also note they interviewed a minor who was at a neighbor’s home during the shooting incident. The child was interviewed at Franklin County Children’s Advocacy Center on March 29th, 2021. This witness said that Michael and the victim would argue every day and that his father, Smith, was a known methamphetamine user. The juvenile witness also disputed numerous issues with the gun storage and other issues.

Troopers were able to execute a search warrant on Smith himself, taking his clothes and conducting a gunshot residue kit on him to search for information about the shooting and blood splatter. The results of the test on the victim found a high concentration of GSR (gunshot residue) particles on the victim’s back left hand, which is would lead to a discrepancy due to her being right handed. The right hand of Michael Smith was also found to have a high concentration of GSR particles. Smith is noted to be right handed.

Pennsylvania State Police and a forensic pathologist in Allentown, PA conducted an autopsy of the victim, which allegedly showed a single gunshot wound to the head killed her. The way the wound was found, however, showed doubt to her being the shooter. The results of the autopsy show that the bullet hole was to the left side of her head, even though she was right handed. Additionally, the bullet trajectory was noted as being “front to back”, showing that the shooter most likely shot her in direct line of sight. The forensic pathologist described the shooting as “highly suspicious and warrants further investigation”.

Troopers additionally conducted tests to determine a muzzle-to-victim distance. using a Griess Test and a forensic consultant, police found that the show was discharged at a distance greater than 12 inches, but less than 30 inches. This indicates the shooting was not self inflicted.

Finally, police examined the Smith’s clothes the day of the shooting and found a spatter stain on the right chest area. Additionally, police found that the victim’s body was moved after the injury due to two blood pools on the scene. Troopers also say that transfer stains were found on the victim’s cell phone and the handgun located beside the victim’s body, indicating that these items were also moved after the shooting.

Due to the abundance of evidence, Michael Smith Jr is charged with criminal homicide. His preliminary hearing is set for August 29th.

Sources: Docket Number: MJ-39306-CR-0000127-2023, Incident No.: PA 2021-420513