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Trial starts for man accused of killing WVU student

Emotions ran high Tuesday during the first day of trial for Shaundarius Reeder, who is accused of murdering West Virginia University student Eric Smith on Feb. 28, 2020.

Reeder is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. His co-defendant, Terrell Linear, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on June 1.

Jury selection lasted until lunchtime, after which the jury heard opening arguments from Monongalia County Prosecutor Perri DeChristopher and Reeder’s attorney William Summers.

DeChristopher gave the jury an overview of what she said the evidence would show during the trial, which is expected to last three days. She described how Smith met with friends at College Park, went to some bars in downtown Morgantown with them and got a ride home with a friend who also agreed to give Reeder and Linear a ride home. During that trip, there was an argument over who made “more money” and who had “better cars.” She described how Reeder and Linear, who were each carrying guns, “hunted” Smith, and shot him to death. She also went over how officers apprehended Reeder and Linear at the University Town Centre Walmart.

“We believe the evidence and submit the evidence is strong,” she said.

Summers said despite the evidence the state will present, it can not prove that Reeder killed Smith.

“The residue in this case will tell you who,” Summers said. “Gunpowder residue will tell you who committed this crime. Where the state makes the mistake in this case is (Linear) had both guns and he had both guns when he shot the victim.”

He pointed to the fact that Reeder had no gunpowder residue on his hands while Linear had gunpowder residue on both hands. He said the gunpowder was the “biggest evidence we have in this case.”

Jurors heard testimony, sometimes through tears, from Gul Jogezai and Gianna Cancemi, friends of Smith who he went downtown with.

Both women testified they met at Jogezai’s apartment at College Park — the same one at which Smith was later killed at — before a friend of Smith’s, Reggie, drove them downtown. Sahara Lester also met at the apartment but drove separately.

Partway through the night, Reggie left and Lester agreed to give Smith, Jogezai and her, a ride home, Cancemi testified. Lester, who also testified Tuesday, also agreed to give Reeder — a lifelong friend — and Linear a ride. Lester said she was supposed to take them to her place.

The ride home lasted only minutes and the argument over “more money, better cars,” was “nothing,” Jogezai said. She described the fight after everyone exited the car at College Park as a really quick “tussle.” Lester said the argument was dumb and she didn’t pay much attention to it.

A few minutes after entering Jogezai’s apartment and going to her bedroom she heard a loud banging, Cancemi said. Smith told her and Jogezai to go into the bathroom and hide while he checked it out.

Jogezai said there were several loud booms and then silence. Cancemi went to the bedroom and got Jogezai’s phone for her then saw the front door was cracked. She opened it fully, and found Smith. Cancemi said she screamed for help and tried to find a pulse but couldn’t and the next thing she knew a lot of police were in the apartment.

One of those officers was Luke Suttle, of the University Police Department, who testified about his response to the call. Suttle said he found several wounds that looked like gunshots on Smith and tried to revive him, but couldn’t. Pictures of Smith’s body lying in the hallway were shown, which caused crying from his friends and family at the trial.

During a recess in the middle of Suttle’s testimony, an altercation occurred outside the courtroom and then outside the justice center between people who were seated on Reeder’s side of the courtroom.

It is unclear who exactly was involved or what led to the altercation and Judge Susan Tucker did not elaborate on what happened. She repeated her warning, initially given before the trial began, to not let feelings or emotions boil over and stated those who were involved were banned from returning for the duration of the trial.

The Morgantown Police Department made no arrests as a result of the altercation, according to the city’s communications director. 

It is not clear if court security or other departments made any arrests.

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