Charge reduced from capital murder to first-degree murder
By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
A man charged in the fatal shooting of an off-duty Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper has been indicted by a Tippah County Grand Jury.
Troy Anthony Eaton of Rienzi was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder in the Sept. 30 shooting death of Kenneth Joshlin Smith, 32, of Alcorn County.
He was also indicted on the charge of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Ricky Dale Vick of Michigan City.
The incident occurred in the rural area of Big Hatchie Bottom near the Alcorn/Tippah County line.
Eaton was originally charged with capital murder, which carried the possibility of the death penalty, said one of his attorneys, Jamie Franks of Tupelo.
The fact that the charge has been downgraded to murder from capital murder shows that the state of Mississippi’s case against Eaton is “unraveling,” Franks asserted.
“I think this is a great victory for Troy Anthony Eaton because he’s not being tried for capital murder,” said Franks.
Tippah County District Attorney Ben Creekmore said he would not characterize being indicted for murder and attempted murder as a victory. The proof in the case will come out in court and not in the newspaper, Creekmore added.
Now Eaton cannot get the death penalty, which is a “very significant” reduction in the original charge, Franks added. Eaton now faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted of the charges in the indictment.
Eaton’s attorneys have said there are a “multitude of witnesses” who support the claim that Eaton was exercising his legal right to self defense when Smith was fatally shot.
Franks added that it appears it is a “thin and sham indictment” and that the “state is trying to save face because of what they’ve said earlier.”
He said he thinks the facts and testimony will “bear out” that “Josh Smith aggressively approached Troy Anthony Eaton, who was sitting in a jeep minding his own business, and that’s when this occurred.”
Eaton is still “professing his innocence,” said Franks, adding that it appears the state understands how “weak their case is against Eaton.”
Tippah County Coroner Chris McCallister has said it appears that Eaton was sitting inside a vehicle on the passenger side when he allegedly shot and killed Smith. It appears Smith was standing outside the vehicle when he was shot once in the head/face area, McCallister has said.
Authorities responded to the shooting at around 12:45 a.m. Sept. 30.
Smith had been a trooper since 2007 and is remembered by many as a family man, dedicated officer and a good person who loved helping others.
Law enforcement from around the state, as well as Gov. Phil Bryant, attended Smith’s memorial service in Corinth.