Families Of Victim, Accused Exchange Heated Words At Ongoing Murder Trial

January 10, 2019
Families Of Victim, Accused Exchange Heated Words At Ongoing Murder Trial

WILKES-BARRE — Tempers flared between the families of murder victim Brandon Smith and his accused killer Wednesday afternoon, prompting Luzerne County sheriff’s deputies to separate the groups.

Proceedings in the third day of the murder trial against 34-year-old Antoine McNeal had just concluded when the families — who have been sitting side-by-side in the same row of the courtroom — briefly exchanged words outside the courtroom doors.

The exchange followed an earlier encounter inside the courtroom in which a woman with Smith’s family took issue with something said by a woman with McNeal’s family, who could be heard insisting the comment wasn’t directed toward her.

Sheriff’s deputies ordered the families to separate and directed Smith’s family to sit apart from McNeal’s family when the case resumes today.

The short-lived dispute capped a day of lengthy forensic testimony during which police testified to seizing surveillance video, prison phone call records and other evidence.

State police DNA scientist Patrice Ferlan testified she matched DNA from blood found on McNeal’s cellphone — which police recovered from inside the vehicle where Smith was shot — to a known sample from Smith.

But two other stains collected from the shirt McNeal was wearing at the time of his capture in April 2017 came from McNeal, not Smith, she said.

McNeal is accused of killing Smith, 20, during a drug robbery outside Smith’s West Church Street home in Nanticoke on Jan. 18, 2017. Prosecutors allege McNeal set up a meeting to buy $500 worth of marijuana from Smith, then shot and robbed him of Percocet pills he purchased a few hours before his death.

The prosecution will continue presenting its case this morning.

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