GREENWOOD, Miss. – A well-known Mississippi oncologist accused of orchestrating a plot to kill his ex-wife's divorce lawyer said he wanted a picture of the slain attorney with a "bullet between his eyes," according to testimony Wednesday.
The lawyer was never hurt, though, in part because state agents were tipped off to the possible $20,000 murder-for-hire plot and were waiting at the attorney's office when the hit man showed up. A shootout occurred and when the firing stopped, the alleged assassin, clad in a black ski mask, was dead and his associate was severely wounded. A bullet also grazed an attorney general's office investigator.
Dr. Ralph Arnold Smith Jr., 70, is charged with conspiring to kill attorney Lee Abraham, who represented Smith's ex-wife. The divorce records were sealed in 2005, but docket entries show the couple fought over money long after the divorce was granted in 1998.
At the preliminary hearing Wednesday, Greenwood police detective Jeff Byars testified that the doctor kept a hidden camera in his office. A video from the camera shows Smith telling an alleged hit man, Keaira Byrd, 23, that he wanted a photo showing Abraham dead.
"Take a picture of him with a bullet between his eyes," Byars said, describing the video.
The men's faces were not visible on the video, and some of it was inaudible.
Byrd was carrying a semi-automatic pistol with a 30-round clip when he walked into Abraham's office April 28, according to Byars. It's not yet clear if Byrd or the investigators shot first.
Byrd's associate, Derrick Lacy, 25, was as shot several times in the back and in the leg and has been released on house arrest while he recovers. Lacy is charged with capital murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
County Judge Kevin Adams determined there was enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury. The judge ordered the doctor held without bond on the capital murder charge and on a conspiracy to commit murder charge. His bond remained $100,000 on a second conspiracy to commit murder charge.
The two conspiracy charges are both related to plots to kill Abraham, but involve different men the doctor approached to help carry out the plan, according to testimony.
Cordarious Robinson, 22, is charged in the second conspiracy count. Authorities said Smith paid Robinson $15,000 for two guns and to "put his ear to the ground to find someone to take out Lee Abraham."
It's not clear if Robinson enlisted Byrd, but authorities said the two men met up the day of the shooting.
Smith's relatives wept when the judge said he would remain in jail. Smith, with graying hair, a white beard and glasses, appeared detached through much of the hearing, often looking down, sitting with his legs crossed with a brown envelope and his hands clasped on his lap. At times, he shook his head from side to side when testimony suggested he hired someone to kill Abraham.
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Agent Mark Steed testified that some type of plot against Abraham could go back as far as two years
Abraham was armed and watching the back door of his law office at the time of the shooting, but the suspects came in the front, Byars said.
Byars said a police investigation discovered a list of possible hit men and where they could be found. Some people in the crowd gasped as names were read.