ORANGE – With three weeks remaining until trial, the defense continues to build its case for the Locust Grove man accused of first-degree murder in last year’s shooting death in an Orange County laundromat.
Defendant Michael Alan Humphries, 37, has pleaded not-guilty to killing 24-year-old Alistair Smith, of Unionville, on the morning of Feb. 13, 2018 inside Wendell’s Place Laundromat on Route 20 in Locust Grove.
Court-appointed attorney David Randle has represented Humphries for the past four months since the defendant requested and was granted a new lawyer due to a claim of ineffective counsel, according to court records.
Humphries did not appear in Orange County Circuit Court Thursday morning for a hearing in advance of the trial scheduled to begin on September 27. Randle appeared briefly on his behalf to request court funding to hire a digital forensics expert to analyze extensive prosecutorial evidence related to cell phone, cell tower and Google GPS data.
The commonwealth will present evidence using the data related to Humphries movements leading up to the alleged homicide, according to Randle’s motion for the funding.
“Location and movement on the offense date are critical to the commonwealth’s theory that the alleged homicide was pre-meditated,” the motion stated.
Circuit Court Judge Dale Durrer easily granted Randle’s motion, allocating up to $6,000 for a defense probe of the cell and GPS data through Digital Forensics Corp. of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Humphries was recently deemed competent to stand trial following an evaluation at Western State Hospital in Staunton. It was the second time the defendant received a mental evaluation with the initial one requested by his prior attorney, and the results never definitively disclosed.
The commonwealth has subpoenaed more than two dozen witnesses to testify at trial including law enforcement, forensic scientists, family members of the defendant and victim and laundromat employees, according to court records. Other evidence will include audio interviews, surveillance video footage, body cam footage and crime scene and autopsy photographs.
Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana O’Connell on Thursday noted there may be some dispute at trial with the prosecution’s use of “certain photos from the crime scene.” Durrer set Sept. 26 to consider the outstanding issues.
Outside the courtroom, Randle said a balance needed to be found with the number of photos shown to the jury. The crime scene was horrible, he said, noting an excess of images could be prejudicial to his client. As to why Humphries did not appear in court Thursday, it had to do with his health, according to the defense attorney.
“My client is having some pretty significant back problems and has not gotten any medical attention,” Randle told the judge.
He requested that the prosecutor’s office call Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange to request that he see a doctor prior to the trial. O’Connell indicated she would attempt to do so.
Orange County authorities responded to the scene of the reported murder that February morning for a report of a male with a gunshot wound to the head. Smith was found lying on his stomach on the floor along with three spent cartridges and a loaded cartridge, according to court records.
While still on the scene, the lead investigator was notified that Humphries had turned himself in at the local jail. The defendant reportedly told police he “shot a guy,” according to the criminal complaint.
Video footage from the business showed a man walking into the laundromat, shooting the victim with a long rifle and then exiting the business. Surveillance from the business also reportedly shows the defendant “going through the victim’s laundry in the dryer prior to the shooting,” according to court records.
Humphries has no prior criminal history and was working as a mechanic at the time of his arrest.
Smith served three years in the U.S. Army and has a young daughter, according to his father. Smith was employed at a nearby convenience store at the time of his death. According to the criminal complaint, Humphries’ wife worked at the same store and the defendant believed she and Smith were having an affair.