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Husband found guilty in murder-for-hire case

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James Edward Smith, left, closes his eyes after the jury finds him guilty Friday afternoon, for attempting to hire an acquaintance to kill his wife in July of 2017.


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Friday, February 16, 2018

A jury deliberated less than an hour Friday before convicting a Pitt County man accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill his wife last July.

The jury in the murder-for-hire trial of James Edward “Ed” Smith, 36, began deliberation about 11:40 a.m. after summations this morning from prosecutors and Smith’s defense lawyer. A unanimous guilty verdict was rendered shortly after noon. 

Judge Carlton Cole later sentenced Smith to 6-8 years in the N.C. Department of Corrections.

The prosecution was aided by Assistant District Attorney Anthony Futrell’s emotional appeal to jurors, which was preceded by several video and audio recordings of Smith’s negotiations with a man he tried to hire to kill his wife. 

“No one can even imagine what she’s going through,” Futrell said. “When we all leave here today, she’s going to be living this. She’s gonna be living this for the rest of her life.

“As a husband and as a father to their two children, those two precious girls, the man had a responsibility to protect his family. This man was trying to have the mother of his children murdered. That’s what he wanted to do for his family. Have the mother of his children murdered.” 

Futrell also suggested to jurors that the evidence in the videos was indisputable.

“You actually get to hear this man talking about getting his wife killed,” Futrell said. “You don’t have to go back there and ask if it really happened. It happened. It was obvious that he intended for Clay to kill Kelly.”

Smith’s attorney, Les Robinson, chastised Futrell for using Smith’s wife and children to make his argument and told jurors to focus on the law.    

“I’m not gonna appeal to your emotions, Robinson said  “What I’m gonna do is tell you the law that Judge Cole is going to give to you and I’m gonna go through the facts of this case. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Robinson spoke of the character of Ed Smith and said Smith had never hurt his wife or showed aggression. 

“For the four years they dated and when they married in 2009, 13 years, the man never threatened her in any kind of way. He never touched her. He never raised his voice. She yells at him and what does he do? He cries. That ought to tell you who this man is through the facts of this case instead of through some emotional appeal,” Robinson said. 

Smith’s wife, Kelly, fought back tears as she read a passage from Psalms, followed by a statement that shed light on the physical and emotional damage her family has suffered. 

“Seven months ago, my life changed forever,” Smith said. “I do not consider myself perfect; no one is. I strive to be loving, considerate and consistent in all that I do as wife, mother, daughter, medical professional and friend. I cannot imagine having done anything in my life to deserve being frightened to within 12 hours of my life on a Sunday night.

“I cannot imagine what I’ve done to merit seeing my husband cuffed and admitted into the custody of Greenville Police for ordering a hit on my life,” she said. “I thought that I could be secure in my marriage, rough patches aside; I have learned costly and cruel lessons, assumptions, even those about the foundation of my life, being more dangerous.”

She also directly spoke to Ed Smith. 

“Your callous disregard for me has caused life-lasting damage to our daughter,” Kelly Smith said. “While you languish in prison, our daughters and I will reap the consequences of your disgrace in the real world.”


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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