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Defendant in Uniontown slaying feared haunting, witness testifies

| Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, 10:43 a.m.

A Fayette County man on trial for homicide had trouble sleeping in jail because he feared the victim would haunt him, according to a Connellsville man who was incarcerated with him.

“He can't sleep because he was afraid of being haunted by his ghost,” testified Gerald Secrest, 50, during Kurtavius “Tay” Jermon Smith's homicide trial on Wednesday.

Smith, 28, is charged by Uniontown police with criminal homicide and carrying a gun without a license in the May 13, 2012, shooting death of Marlin “Zeus” Crawford, 28.

Police found the mortally wounded Crawford lying unresponsive on a sidewalk at 4:46 a.m. in the Pershing Court Manor public housing complex. He died of a single gunshot wound in the forehead, a forensic pathologist testified on Tuesday.

Secrest said Smith expressed his fears during a conversation the two had in the Fayette County jail in June 2013. Secrest said he was in jail on a charge of receiving stolen property.

Secrest testified that on another occasion in the jail, he overheard Smith asking another inmate to provide him with an alibi.

Another witness, Diana Long of Uniontown, testified Smith sent her a letter from jail in which he asked her to memorize a statement for police.

“I need you to write this down and remember it,” Long testified, reading from the letter. “I came to your house at 2 a.m. You let me in and went back to sleep.”

Long testified Smith directed her to tell police she was awakened at 4 a.m. by a television. She was to tell police she went downstairs to turn it off, at which time she found him asleep.

Detective Donald Gmitter, the prosecuting officer, testified that during a Jan. 3 interview with Smith in the district attorney's office, Smith acknowledged having shot Crawford. Gmitter testified Smith told him the shooting occurred after he confronted Crawford for having implicated him in a home invasion.

Smith told the officer he fell to the ground when he was punched by another person who was with him. He grabbed a handgun that fell from the other man's waistband and fired backwards as he ran away, Gmitter testified.

“While he was running, he heard shooting and he heard a bullet hit the guardrail,” Gmitter testified.

Others who testified during the third day of the trial before Judge Steve Leskinen included a state police ballistics expert, Cpl. David J. Burlingame. Burlingame testified a bullet that was removed from Crawford's head was fired by a 9 mm handgun that prosecutors introduced into evidence on Tuesday.

No fingerprints were found on the handgun, according to another state police officer who tested it for latent prints, Randy Mocello.

Testimony is to resume Thursday.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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