Burglary suspect could face murder charge

January 19, 2012 4:42:25 AM PST
A burglary suspect is facing felony murder charges over the shooting death of his alleged accomplice in a home invasion that took place last week. But it wasn't the suspect who pulled the trigger.

The accomplice was shot and killed by a deputy who responded to the burglary. The teenage murder suspect's attorney claims the charge is heavy-handed and unfair. He says all his client did was burglarize a house -- nothing more.

Ashton Lee Smading, 18, is accused of breaking into a Katy area home with two friends last week. According to court documents, a responding deputy shot and killed one of the other suspects while they struggled over the deputy's gun. Smading fled.

Even though investigators admit he'd already run when his friend was killed by the deputy, Smading is now charged with murder.

"It was a surprise. I thought it was unnecessary," said Ed Chernoff, Smading's attorney.

He calls the charge over-reaching.

"Just because the law allows for the charge doesn't mean it's a necessary or proper charge," Chernoff said.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office says it filed the case, in part, under the "felony murder" statute.

KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy explained, "The law says when you break in to a home, you are responsible for all the consequences, whether or not you knew exactly what was going to happen."

According to Donna Hawkins with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, "At the time the charge was filed, there was probable cause to believe that the defendant engaged in an act that was clearly dangerous to human life in the course of committing a felony. And that a man was killed during the commission of that offense."

Neighbors of the burglary victim say they're pleased to see the murder charge, hoping it might act as a deterrent.

"If that's the way the laws read, that's excellent," said neighbor Russell McCoy. "Something has to stop all this."

Smading could be sent to prison for life if convicted. The DA's Office says ultimately a grand jury will determine whether to indict Smading on this murder charge or any other charge.