After Hugo's Charles and Laura Clagett were found murdered late last month, local police identified the person of interest only as a teen relative. Now, however, we know that he's Greg Smith, the Clagett's great-grandson, who turns seventeen next week -- because the 18th Judicial District DA's office has charged him with first-degree murder as an adult. What led to this decision?
DA's office spokeswoman Casimir Spencer declines to provide specifics, saying only that "the facts we've gathered during our investigation justify the direct filing" of adult charges. But although the 18th Judicial District, led by controversy magnet Carol Chambers, recently stirred debate over its decision to charge eleven-year-old Jacob Christensen with second-degree arson, there's been no uproar to date in regard to Smith. Obviously, he's several years older than Christensen -- but reports about the killings that have come out so far brim with the sort of details that hardly seem like kid stuff.
Smith's mother, Rose, has had at least one run-in with the law; years ago, she was busted for arson and served a probationary sentence. No such reports about her son, who she's portrayed in interviews as a normal kid -- an okay student with interests in sports and music.
But as he reached his middle teens, Smith started to rebel, coming home late, shirking his household responsibilities and refusing to go to a Methodist church; he wanted to switch to Mormonism instead.
Eventually, Rose sent him to a counselor before shipping him off to live with his great-grandparents, whose farm he had loved when he was younger. He enrolled in school, played on most of the major sports teams, and while he griped about the strict rules he was made to follow, nothing seemed out of the ordinary to Rose.
That would all change after police contacted her to reveal that Greg had crashed his truck and might be paralyzed. And then, as if that prospect wasn't terrifying enough, she learned the Clagetts had been murdered -- shot execution-style in their beds. Moreover, they'd probably been that way for a while. The Lincoln County coroner revealed that the couple had probably been dead for several days, during which time Greg had gone to school and even pitched in a baseball game.
Right now, Smith, who's no longer paralyzed, is in a juvenile detention center, even though he's been charged as an adult -- an irony of the juvenile code. As Spencer explains, her office can now release the sort of information that's typical in an adult criminal case, and court proceedings will be open to the public and the press -- not closed, as are juvenile hearings. But she says regulations make it "unlawful to place a juvenile in an adult facility, regardless of the charges."
If Smith is convicted while still underage, will he serve in a juvenile facility until he turns eighteen, then transfer to an adult prison? Not necessarily. Spencer says "various sentencing options are available to the court based on the offense for which a defendant is actually convicted."
In the meantime, Smith and his assigned public defender will next be in court at 9:30 a.m. on May 6, at which time the date for a preliminary hearing is expected to be set. There, he'll be treated like a grown-up who's been accused of doing a very bad thing.
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Look below to see a 9News report broadcast shortly after news of the Clagetts' murder broke.