Investigators: Wife staged La. sergeant husband's murder to look like suicide

A Jefferson Parish grand jury has charged Shantel Parria-Smith with second-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband


By Chad Calder
The Advocate

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — A Jefferson Parish grand jury has charged Shantel Parria-Smith with second-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office sergeant who died of a single bullet to the head in the couple’s Waggaman home in June.

Thursday's indictment came three days after Parria-Smith’s lawyers said an amended coroner’s report shows that JPSO investigators based their conclusion that Sgt. Troy Smith was a homicide victim on incorrect information about the location of the exit wound in his head.

Pictured is Sergeant Troy Smith. (Photo/JPSO)
Pictured is Sergeant Troy Smith. (Photo/JPSO)

Parria-Smith's attorneys argue this new evidence shows her husband killed himself. The coroner's report, however, still classifies the manner of Smith's death as "undetermined."

Parria-Smith, 35, called 911 on June 17 and said her husband had shot himself in the head in the bedroom of their Camellia Lane home. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died on June 24.

Her lawyers filed a motion Monday in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna asking that a preliminary hearing into the case be reopened, citing amendments the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office made to its initial autopsy report.

The amended report indicates that the hole in the top of Smith’s skull originally thought to be the exit wound was in fact made by surgeons operating on him before his death.

It says the exit wound is the same as the entrance wound on the right side of Smith's head toward the front, a tangential or superficial wound that was “incorporated into the craniotomy incision and was subsequently sutured and stapled.”

Parria-Smith’s lawyers said the surgeons at the hospital noted nothing suspicious about the shooting, found it consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot and detected alcohol, amphetamines and opiates in Smith’s system.

“These findings are further proof in support of Ms. Parria-Smith’s consistent story that Sgt. Smith was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he accidentally shot himself,” Parria-Smith’s lawyers wrote.

The coroner's report notes that although its findings as to the nature of the wound were amended, the office still cannot say whether Smith's death was a homicide or a suicide because the range of fire is unknown and there is other conflicting information about his death.

Parria-Smith's attorneys have previously argued that Smith had expressed suicidal thoughts and that he killed himself in despair over his disintegrating marriage and crumbling finances.

A forensic pathologist also testified in August that there were no gunpowder burns or abrasions on Smith.

Parria-Smith is being held in the Jefferson Parish jail in lieu of $750,000 bail. She faces mandatory life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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