Murder suspect in trooper shooting released
CORINTH, Miss. (AP) — The suspect charged with capital murder in the shooting of an off-duty Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper has been released from jail.
Attorneys for Troy Anthony Eaton, 43, of Rienzi, said their client was released Friday shortly after Tippah County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Howorth set bond at $200,000 on the capital murder charge and $100,000 on an attempted murder charge.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports Eaton faces charges in the death of 32-year-old Trooper Josh Smith. The incident happened near the Hatchie River south of Walnut on Sept. 30 in a rural, isolated area near the Alcorn/Tippah County line.
Attorney Jamie Franks has said Eaton was defending himself and others.
The judge also granted a motion by the state to postpone a preliminary hearing that was set for next week. Holding a preliminary hearing would be “premature and could be detrimental to the integrity of the investigation,” the motion requesting the continuance stated.
“At this point, the investigation is still fluid and ongoing by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation,” the motion states.
The motion also noted that Eaton’s attorneys want subpoenas issued to several officials and agencies. The defense attorneys are seeking information on Smith, such as toxicology reports, employment records, 911 calls and other documents.
Prior to his release Friday, Eaton had been held in jail without bond for about 40 days. He turned himself in on Sept. 30, hours after the shooting.
The bond includes conditions that Eaton not have any contact with Smith’s family, Tippah County District Attorney Ben Creekmore said.
The charging affidavit against Eaton alleges that he killed Smith knowing that Smith was acting in an official capacity as a law enforcement officer. But the defense 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, who was off-duty, was fatally shot.
Creekmore said he is not aware of anything that would indicate that Eaton is not properly charged.
Eaton is also charged with the attempted murder of Rickie Dale Vick, 38, of Michigan City.
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.
Witnesses said Smith was armed with a firearm when he was fatally shot, Davis said.
It is unclear when the case may be presented to a grand jury, said Creekmore, adding that it depends on how long it takes MBI to complete its investigation. The next regular grand jury will be in April.
Eaton was allegedly beat up inside the Tippah County Jail a few days after his arrest and was relocated to Marshall County to ensure his safety, Franks said. The FBI said it was looking into the jail-beating allegation to see if there were any civil rights violations.
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com