Jurors followed the footsteps of crime scene investigators Tuesday, reviewing photos that showed the overgrown lot where Patricia Burley was found dead in 2010.
The graphic images were included in the second day of Corey Smith’s trial in Richmond County Superior Court as prosecutors presented evidence to support murder charges against the 30-year-old homeless man. Tuesday’s testimony visually portrayed Burley’s final hours and outlined how Smith came to be a suspect.
The victim, a 54-year-old woman with Down syndrome, disappeared that Aug. 22 from her Wrightsboro Road home, within sight of the United House of Prayer.
Sheriff’s Investigator Phillip Snead said Tuesday that several witnesses identified Smith as the last person seen with Burley the Sunday night she went missing.
Worry about Burley became fear by that Tuesday as deputies and volunteers searched a 3-square-mile area and distributed 3,000 missing-person fliers.
Snead found Smith and took him to the sheriff’s office for questioning. In that conversation, recorded and played for jurors Tuesday, Smith gave vague answers about his whereabouts for the previous two days and denied knowing Burley. Snead told him that many witnesses identified him from his tattoos, height, build, mustache, skin color and clothes.
“They described you from your head to your shoes,” Snead said. Smith adamantly denied doing anything.
“I didn’t say you did anything,” Snead replied in the recording.
Smith was arrested later that day on a charge of simple assault after he reportedly threatened to “stomp on the head and slap the face” of another investigator.
The next day, Burley’s body was found about 11 p.m. in the overgrown lot at the dead end of Hall Street, near Twiggs Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard.
A video taken by Crime Scene Investigator Steve Fanning showed police walking by flashlight through bushes tall enough to brush their shoulders. Burley was found face down on a dirty, white couch, her hands bound across her lower back. Decomposition was advanced after a few days in the August heat. Her face was veiled with insects.
As investigators pulled back the bedclothes covering the body they noticed bonds around her arms, legs and wrists. The initials “CMB” were carved in the left buttock after her death.
None of the jurors flinched as Assistant District Attorney Natalie Paine placed the images on an overhead screen. Smith rocked gently in his seat and only glanced at the pictures.
The trial continues today, and deliberations are expected to start Thursday.