Court hears Brittany Smith’s confession

  • Murder defendant Brittany Smith in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday, April 30. PAUL FRANZ/FOR THE ATHOL DAILY NEWS

  • Murder defendant Brittany Smith is flanked by her lawyers Bruce Green and Mary Ann Stamm in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday, April 30. RECORDER STAFF/PAUL FRANZ

  • State Police Detective Tom Bakey testifies about cell tower analysis and tracking during the murder trial of Brittany Smith in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday, April 30. RECORDER STAFF/PAUL FRANZ

  • Hon. John Agostini presides over the murder trial of Brittany Smith in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday, April 30. RECORDER STAFF/PAUL FRANZ

  • Murder defendant Brittany Smith and her lawyer Mary Ann Stamm in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday, April 30. RECORDER STAFF/PAUL FRANZ

  • SMITH

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 5/1/2018 10:43:01 PM

GREENFIELD — “I was so scared. I was so high on crack.”

That was Brittany Smith’s answer when Virginia police asked why Smith would strike an elderly woman in the head, knock the woman out of her wheelchair and attempt to stab her.

“I didn’t stab anybody. I tried, but I couldn’t, like, I wasn’t strong enough,” said Smith, describing the Oct. 5, 2016, beating of Joanna Fisher that led to the 77-year-old’s death about five weeks later.

Smith, 29, of Athol, and her co-defendant, Joshua Hart, 25, of Athol, allegedly fatally wounded Fisher and murdered her husband, Thomas Harty, 95, in the elderly couple’s home at 581 East River St. in Orange.

Smith has pleaded not guilty, but Hart has already been convicted of two counts of murder in the first degree — each count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

During the third day of Smith’s Superior Court trial, the 14-person jury and Judge John Agostini heard an audio recording of Smith’s interview with police in Rockbridge County, Va., where Smith and Hart were apprehended after being tracked as fugitives by Massachusetts State Police.

“Where was Josh (while you were attacking Fisher)?” asked Lt. Steven Funkhouser of the Rockbridge County Sherrif’s Department.

According to Smith, Hart was stabbing Harty while she hit Fisher. Harty’s body was found in his recliner the day after the home invasion, and Fisher was found on the floor with broken ribs.

A Catholic Charities nurse had arrived for a scheduled visit with Fisher, who was recovering from a 2013 spinal stroke and was making health plans to learn how to walk again, and found the victims.

In the taped interview, Smith not only admitted to attacking Fisher, ransacking the home and stealing the victims’ car, she also said she knew Fisher was disabled.

“I think she was in the (wheel)chair because she was paralyzed,” Smith is heard saying. “She couldn’t move.”

Smith and Hart had already been caught when Fisher died.

According to prosecutor and Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Bucci, Smith and Hart had selected to attack the elderly couple — whom they thought could be easily overpowered — and steal their car.

Smith and Hart were allegedly attempting to run away together to flee the consequences of their arrests for motor vehicle theft — they had used Smith’s great-grandmother’s car without permission, were caught and Smith allegedly told police they needed the car to go buy heroin. Smith wanted to avoid court-ordered drug treatment, and Hart, who had warrants for his arrest from his home state of Pennsylvania, wanted to avoid jail time, according to the prosecution.

Police found them in Virginia after tracking usage of the victims’ credit cards and signals from cell phone towers. The victims’ Toyota Matrix was also found in Virginia.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Smith’s defense attorney, Mary Anne Stamm, highlighted that Smith “moans and complains” throughout the taped interview with Virginia police.

Stamm had filed a motion before the trial to prevent the interview from being played before a jury. Stamm said Smith’s stomach pains made it harder for Smith to process information, and therefore the confession is invalid. Agostini denied the motion.

In cross-examination, Capt. Tony McFaddin, who was present during the interview, admitted Smith complained of stomach pains. However, McFaddin also said “her story continued to change throughout the interview,” mentioning drugs, then an empty stomach, then food poisoning as causes of the pain.

“When you were speaking with the defendant, were there any times she was incoherent or had an inability to communicate with you?” Bucci asked McFaddin.

“No, sir,” McFaddin said.

Smith’s interview with police revealed other details about the home invasion. She said she and Hart broke in through a door in the garage, unable to get in through windows.

Smith also said she and Hart fled in the victims’ car and threw the knife used to kill Harty out the window. Furthermore, the car could have been stolen without violence.

“We went through the house and the keys were in the car already,” Smith said.

Smith’s fingerprints found

Other testimony Tuesday came from Todd Girouard, a Massachusetts State Police officer of 13 years.

One of Girouard’s areas of expertise is finding fingerprints at crime scenes and comparing them or matching them to others. Smith’s fingerprints had already been obtained after her prior arrest.

According to Girouard, Smith’s fingerprints were found on the screen of a window looking into the house. The fingerprints were on the edges of the screen, indicating Smith may have attempted to remove the screen in order to climb into the house.

Girouard also examined the victims’ Toyota Matrix after it was transferred back to Massachusetts. Again, Smith’s fingerprints were found, this time on the driver’s side door of the car.

More witnesses for the prosecution will testify on Wednesday. Once the prosecution has called all its witnesses, the defense will make an opening statement and call its own witnesses.

According to Agostini, prosecution and defense are expected to rest their cases by Friday, when the jury is expected to begin deliberations.


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