By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer
White River Junction — A 30-year-old man who eluded police for five days pleaded not guilty on Friday to a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a father of four in Springfield, Vt., last weekend.
Gregory A. Smith, acting through his public defender at Windsor Superior Court, waived his right to bail arguments until a hearing to assess the weight of the evidence against him can be scheduled.
Smith was returned to Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield. Smith and a girlfriend were arrested Thursday. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
A warrant had been issued last weekend for Smith’s arrest on charges he killed Wesley Wing, 37, who was shot on South Street near his apartment Saturday night and succumbed to his injuries at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center early Sunday morning.
Following Friday’s court procedures, one of Wing’s daughters, Casey, said she wants justice for her father.
“He was just the best person I knew,” said Casey Wing, 15. “He didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve any of this.”
Casey Wing said her father, a contractor, had a great work ethic and enthusiasm for his profession, and was “always the person to help you.”
“For someone to take him from so many people who loved him …,” she added later, her voice trailing off.
At a separate hearing shortly after Smith’s, one of his girlfriends, Wendy Morris, 25, of Springfield, was released on a bond after she pleaded not guilty to a felony charge that she helped Smith evade police.
Earlier in the afternoon, as authorities escorted the shackled Smith to a back room following his roughly 60-second arraignment, a woman in the gallery called out, “Love you, Greg, love you, Greg.”
The prompted one of the sheriff’s deputies to tell the packed courtroom “that’s enough” and ban “anymore outbursts.”
Several people who had been sitting in the area of the woman declined to comment afterward.
Morris’ brother, Marcellus Knight, said that the people in the courtroom included family and friends of Wing, Smith and Morris.
Casey Wing said the people sitting with her included her paternal grandmother and uncles, as well as her sisters and other supporters. Clusters of people who had been sitting in different areas of the courtroom hugged in the lobby after the hearing, some of them weeping softly.
Authorities located Smith and Morris, who shared a Springfield apartment together, on Thursday morning in a camp that belongs to another one of Morris’ brothers in South Londonderry, Vt., according to a police affidavit filed in court documents.
The affidavit said that police conducted “multiple interviews” with Morris after the shooting and that she told them she didn’t know where Smith was, but that police “caught (Morris) in various lies” and she changed pieces of her story.
Among the details that police alleged Morris changed during interviews is her description of the events leading up to the shooting around 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Based on interviews with Wing’s wife and other witnesses, police allege that Wing got into a verbal altercation with Morris about her alleged use of heroin near his house, and that in the moments after, Morris had a conversation with Smith. Police allege Smith then had a verbal altercation with Wing before shooting him four times and fleeing in a car.
At the end of Morris’ 25-minute hearing, Judge Robert Gerety granted her an unsecured appearance bond in the amount of $10,000, meaning that she would have to pay that amount only if she fails to appear for one of her future hearings.
Prosecutor Ward Goodenough had argued Morris should be held on $10,000 cash or surety bail, in part because he asserted that the nature of the allegations against Morris — evading authorities — suggest an aptitude to flee.
He also spoke to the seriousness of the allegations, the strength of the evidence and the seven-year maximum sentence that Morris faces if convicted.
But Morris’ public defender, Stefan Ricci, argued that Morris has strong ties to the community and no prior criminal record. While the allegations against her are serious, he said, they are not violent.
Gerety underscored that in making a bail determination, his considerations under state statute must be limited to a defendant’s risk of flight or failure to appear in court. He said the fact that Morris did not appear to have a criminal record — and therefore no failures to appear — weighed heavily in his decision to grant the unsecured appearance bond.
According to state records, Morris was released Friday afternoon. During the arraignment, Gerety imposed several conditions of release, including that she have no “verbal” or “non-verbal” contact with members of the Wing family, who were listed out in the conditions; that she not abuse or harass them; and that she stay 50 feet away from them.
Morris’ apartment is located on a circular road that is accessible only by passing by the apartment Wing lived in, so Gerety included in the latter condition that if Morris has “incidental” or “unintentional” contact with a member of the Wing family, that she remove herself from the 50-foot zone “as soon as practical.”
Knight, Morris’ brother, said that it was a relief that his sister would be released.
“The only thing she’s guilty of is loving someone,” he said.