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Thursday, July 12, 2012

NFL Crime: The Anthony Wayne Smith Murder Case

     A high percentage of former National Football League players fall on hard times. They have heath concerns, domestic problems, battle drug and alcohol addition, and go broke. Over the years more than 500 ex-NFL players have been charged with crimes that include narcotics violations, domestic abuse, resisting arrest, rape, aggravated assault, solicitation of murder, and criminal homicide. Even so, criminologists report that crime rates among NFL players are lower than they are in the general public.

Anthony Wayne Smith

     On October 7, 2008, the body of a 31-year-old mechanic named Maurilio Ponce was found along a southern California desert highway near the town of Lancaster in Los Angeles County. Ponce had been shot six times. Three men, including Anthony Wayne Smith, a former defensive end with the Oakland Raiders (1991-1998), were charged with Ponce's murder. Besides the 41-year-old Smith, the Los Angeles County prosecutor charged Eric Honest, 38, and Dwann Wesley White, 33. While the motive for the killing has not been detailed, Ponce's murder involved some kind of business dispute.

     In April 2012, a Los Angeles County jury found Eric Honest guilty of second degree murder in the Ponce case. Honest faced up to 15 years in prison. In a separate murder trial involvingAnthony Wayne Smith, the jury, after deliberating 9 days, split on the issued of his guilt. As a result, the judge declared a mistrial.

     Prosecutors had placed Smith in the vicinity of the Ponce murder through cellphone tracking, but could not link him to the killing with DNA, fingerprints, or other physical evidence. Without a confession, an eyewitness, or a forensic connection to the crime scene, the district attorney failed to acquire an unanimous verdict. Smith, following the hung jury, remained incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail. The prosecution plans to retry him on the Ponce murder. Dewann Wesley White is awaiting his trial in the case.

     In June 2012, a Los Angeles County assistant district attorney charged Anthony Wayne Smith with the murders of three more men. One of these cases involves the kidnapping of brothers Kevin and Ricky Nettles on November 10, 1999 from their car wash business in Los Angeles. The men were abducted by two men impersonating police officers. The next day, the brothers, their hands cuffed in zip-ties, were found dead. They had been tortured, then shot with a 9-millimeter pistol.

     Three men, on June 25, 2001, kidnapped a man named Dennis Henderson and Terry Ware, Henderson's associate. The abductors put the victims in separate vehicles and drove off. The following day, Henderson's body turned up in the trunk of a rented car. He had been tortured, stabbed, and robbed. Anthony Smith and Dennis Henderson had been next-door neighbors in Marina del Ray. (The kidnappers released Terry Ware, the other abductee.)

     Only a handful of NFL players have been charged with criminal homicide. The most famous, of course, is O.J.Simpson who was acquitted in 1996 of double murder. Anthony Wayne Smith is the only ex-NFL player to be charged with four murders. Unlike Simpson who was a football star, and in retirement a TV personality and a film actor, Smith is unknown outside of the bay area where a few football fans still remember him. As a result, his mistrial in the Ponce murder case was not big news, even in California. To date, he is the only former NFL player to be accused of serial murder. 

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