Accused Murderer: Toddler’s Shooting Was an Accident

By Beacon Staff

An Evergreen man accused of murdering his girlfriend’s 19-month-old daughter took the stand Tuesday afternoon and gave an emotional testimony, maintaining that the shooting death was accidental.

“I loved her with everything,” Dwayne Scott Smail, 24, said through tears. “She was my whole world. I’d give anything to go back to that day and change things.”

Prosecutors, however, say Smail’s account of the events leading up to Korbyn Eva May Williams’ death are inconsistent with forensic evidence and Smail’s original interviews with investigators. Smail is charged with deliberate homicide.

On March 5, 2008, the day of the toddler’s death, Smail said he drove Korbyn’s mother Aimee Marie Williams into Kalispell for her 5 p.m. shift at Taco John’s on Main and Idaho streets. He returned home with Korbyn and, several hours later, shortly after receiving a phone call from friend Kevin Mace, decided to take a nap.

Smail said he woke up to Korbyn tapping him, and that the toddler had crawled toward the corner of the bed. He said he then realized she was holding a handgun, which the couple kept for protection, usually in a gun safe next to the bed. Smail said that as he reached to grab the gun, which he thought was unloaded, a light shined into the apartment, momentarily distracting him.

“I pulled back on it (the gun),” Smail said. “The gun fired and I looked back over and seen her.”

While Smail said that “it’s hard to remember exactly what happened in order after that,” he said that he picked Korbyn up, grabbed a towel and then put Korbyn back on the bed. At some point, he said he threw the handgun at the door.

Smail said he then went out to the parking lot, where Mace had just arrived, and told him that there was an accident and that Korbyn had shot herself. Mace had previously testified that Smail asked him to tell authorities he had witnessed the shooting and back his story that it was an accident. Smail told the courtroom he didn’t remember saying that.

Smail said he returned to the apartment to get his keys and drove to Williams’ workplace to tell her what happened. “I wasn’t thinking straight,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do. The only thing I could think of was to go tell Aimee.”

Prosecutors, however, questioned Smail’s testimony, pointing out several instances where the original version of events he told investigators was different, including his assertions that Korbyn had shot herself. “When I made this statement I was in a state of mind where I wasn’t even thinking straight to begin with,” Smail said, when asked about the original report.

Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan also noted that there was only a 17-minute span between when Smail first talked to Mace on the phone and when the 911 report was made. “In those 17 minutes, when did you have time to fall asleep?” Corrigan asked, adding that all the events Smail detailed would have had to also take place in that amount of time.

When pressed by Corrigan, Smail was unable to say when the gun was cocked or loaded and why it was out of the safe.

Before Smail – the defense’s only witness – took the stand, a series of forensic experts from the Montana state crime lab testified. Montana State Medical Examiner Gary Dale said that the shot that killed Korbyn was a contact wound, meaning the gun was against her head at the time it discharged.

The situation, however, was “exceptional,” Dale said, and unlike any other case he has worked on.

“It was a devastating wound far exceeding what you’d expect for a 9 mm,” he said, adding that that led him to initially believe it was a contact wound.

Upon examination, though, there was very little of the soot or gunpowder typical of a contact wound, Dale said. It wasn’t until months later, when Dale examined a piece of the wall behind where Korbyn was killed that he said he was able to confirm his initial suspicions. In an unusual case, the gunpowder had followed the bullet through the victim and was on the wall.

“That finding there in my opinion makes it irrefutable that this was a contact gunshot wound,” Dale said. The type of ammunition used also leaves considerably less soot than most other kinds, he said.

In his report, Dale listed Korbyn’s death as a homicide – one of a limited number of choices, meaning that the toddler did not kill herself or die of natural causes – and explained in his testimony that he didn’t think it was possible for the 22-and-a-half pound toddler to “discharge (the gun) in a conventional manner with one hand.”

Throughout the day, the jury also looked at several graphic and unsettling photos as Dale and other forensic specialists demonstrated the force it would take to discharge a similar gun and compared the size and weight of the gun to Korbyn’s body size.

Smail, though, disagreed with Dale’s account: “I did not push no gun up against Korbyn’s head – that’s not the way it happened,” he said.

Both sides are expected to present their closing arguments Wednesday, before sending the case to the jury for deliberation.

If convicted, Smail could face up to 100 years or life in prison, and an additional 10 years because a firearm was used in the alleged crime.