LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - A jury has found Floyd “Wayne” Smith guilty on all three of his charges: conspiracy to commit murder, murder and assisting a criminal.
As we previously reported, Donald “Donnie” Alkire was fatally stabbed in the neck by Joseph Wilkerson on March 7th, 2020. Wilkerson is currently serving a 57 year sentence after taking a guilty plea agreement last July. Smith and Donnie had been best friends since childhood.
During final arguments, state attorney Cassidy Laux brought up a timely historical reference. March 15th marks the anniversary of Julius Caesar's death. The historical leader famously died when his best friend, Brutus, lead a revolt against him and he was stabbed to death. Laux said the idea of a best friend killing another best friend is not unheard of.
Smith’s jury trial began on Tuesday with him claiming his innocence of being involved in the crime. The jury found the evidence did not support his innocence.
Before the jury was able to deliberate, the state called one final witness. Dr. Darren Wolfe conducted Alkire’s autopsy. The jury saw graphic photos of the wound on Alkire’s neck. Dr. Wolfe said the knife hit several vital body parts, including both the right and left carotid arteries, and part of the esophagus. He confirmed for the jury that the manner of death was homicide.
After Dr. Wolfe’s testimony, the state and defense both rested their cases. Smith decided not to testify.
The state began its closing arguments first. One of the main things they have to prove is accomplice liability, known in legal terms as “aid, induce, cause a concerted action.”
The state argued that there is clear evidence of conspiracy to commit murder and assisting a criminal, and that what proves those two charges ultimately also proves that Smith was also responsible for Donnie’s murder.
State attorney Cassidy Laux said that Smith participated in every part of the crime, aside from physically stabbing Donnie in the neck. He said that Donnie might still be here today had Smith not been involved at all.
To prove accomplice liability, the state has to show that the defendant was aware of the killers intent, that he was present at the scene of the murder, that he concealed evidence and that he initially lied to police. Laux went about doing this starting with a timeline of events.
At 5:55pm on March 7th, 2020, Wilkerson called Smith via the Facebook Messenger app for about 20 minutes. He showed a photo of Smith’s phone which showed the call stamps. This is when Wilkerson and Smith agreed to meet up at Champs Bar and Grill in Lafayette.
At 6:23pm, Smith calls Wilkerson on Messenger, picks up Wilkerson and they head for Champs.
At 6:50pm, Smith and Wilkerson arrive at Champs. Security camera footage from Champs’ parking lot shows them arriving in a black four-door pick-up truck. They get outside and walk into the bar. Footage from inside the bar shows the two sitting down and ordering drinks.
This is when Smith’s friend, Nathan Reene, walks up to them. Reene testified that he had been drinking already that day and was “feeling good.” You see Reene hug Smith, and shake Wilkerson’s hand as they were introduced for the first time that day by Smith. Even though you see Reene come and go from the spot and appear not to be immediately involved in all parts of the conversation, he testified that he heard Smith ask Wilkerson if he wanted to go kill someone.
Wilkerson also confirmed that Smith asked him if he wanted to go kill Donnie. He had previously testified that Smith seemed to be jealous of how well Donnie was doing in getting his life back on track.
At 8:27pm, Smith calls Donnie. The state showed Smith’s cell phone call logs to prove that. Wilkerson also testified that Smith told him he had called Donnie from the bathroom, but he wasn’t there for the conversation.
At 8:33pm, security camera footage shows Smith, Wilkerson and Reene leaving the bar in the truck. Reene said he had simply asked Smith for a ride home that night, but Smith told him they needed to stop and see a friend first.
The video footage showed the truck entering the parking lot from the right when they first arrived at Champs. However, when they left Champs, the video showed Smith turning left. The state argued this is consistent with him heading downtown towards Donnie’s home near the corner of 7th and Cincinnati Streets. Both Wilkerson and Reene testified that they did not know where Donnie lived.
At 8:51pm, the three men arrive at Donnie’s home. Reene said he exited the truck. Wilkerson said that while he was in the truck alone with Smith is when Smith handed him the knife and threatened to harm his family if he didn’t kill Donnie.
Security camera footage from inside the home showed the men entering. Smith clearly gestures to the other two to stay quiet and waves them up the first flight of stairs. Smith leads the way up. In a second security footage clip from the second floor, Smith again waves the other two up the next flight of stairs.
At 9:07pm, they are seen quickly leaving the house. The state played the video from the second floor camera where you can hear the murder happening. You can hear Donnie screaming and you can hear loud thuds. Donnie’s family was sitting in the courtroom and heard the audio. Donnie’s half-brother John stormed out of the room in anger. His mother was crying and had her hands over mouth in disbelief.
As the three men go down the third floor stairs and are on their way out, you see the building manager John Tankersely asking them what was going on. Smith casually says that Shawn Alkire, Donnie’s father, is drunk. Tankersely also testified to seeing a truck speeding away from the home running stop signs as it went.
In the truck, both Reene and Wilkerson testified that Smith appeared angered after learning that the knife had been left behind in Donnie’s room. Reene said Smith told him to keep quiet when he was finally dropped off at home. Wilkerson said Smith coached him on how to act when he got home, telling him to avoid watching the new on TV.
Around the same time the three men left, Robert Lacosse called 911. He was a tenant living in the 7th Street home. Nathan Reene also called 911 when he got home and said he would talk to police about what he witnessed. At 9:10pm, Officer Aaron Dobrin was dispatched to the scene. He arrived a minute later. He immediately called for a medic and a crime scene investigator after taking in all the blood in Donnie’s room.
At 9:54pm, Donnie’s mother, Martha Sliger, texted Smith multiple times trying to get in contact with him to tell him what had happened. He called her back a few minutes later, but she testified that he did not say anything.
At 10:18pm, records show that he calls Donnie's half-brother, John, through Facebook Messenger. John had testified that he hadn't talked to Smith in close to a year at that point. He also said that Smith did not tell him anything.
Smith was arrested in the morning on March 8th. Laux greatly contributed the speed of that arrest to Nathan Reene and his willingness to work with investigators.
Defense lawyer Alicia Pratt began her closing arguments to the jury. Her argument was that Wilkerson is the one who initiated everything by calling Smith to get drinks that night. Wilkerson is the one who stabbed Donnie in the neck. She argued it was Wilkerson's knife that was used and that he had a collection of similar weapons.
Wilkerson testified that he had at one time owned the murder weapon, but that he had given it to Smith as a present. He testified that Smith handed him the knife while they were alone in the truck together outside Donnie's house.
Pratt recalled Wilkerson said Smith threatened to harm his family if he didn't follow through. She also recalled Nathan Reene saying that Wilkerson appeared calm when he saw him right after that conversation. She also pointed out that no one testified that Smith had any other weapons on him at the time.
She brought up the video footage from inside Champs Bar. She said Wilkerson was the one sitting there rigidly, while Reene and Smith hugged and seemed to have relaxed body language.
One of the state's main arguments was that Smith is the one who drove them to Donnie's home. She said this was obvious and not suspicious because he had been the main driver from the beginning, well before there was any alleged talk of going and killing Donnie.
She said Wilkerson is the one who testified to having been in a fight with Donnie and that there was never a falling out between Donnie and Smith. The fact that Donnie's mother called Smith first to tell him what had happened out of care and concern shows that there were no hard feelings between the two best friends.
She said of course Wilkerson is throwing Smith under the bus. He had done the murder and he wanted to bring down his friend with him. Reene didn't see any signal to kill coming from Smith, only Wilkerson said that's what happened. She concluded that the state had not fully proven Smith's involvement in conspiracy to commit murder.
The state always gets the final word and gets a chance to rebuff claims made by the defense. He recalled testimony from one of the people who was with Donnie as he died who heard Donnie say, "they hurt me." He put emphasis on the "they" part of that statement. He said there is no evidence that contradicts Wilkerson's story that he was pressured by Smith to commit the crime.
Wilkerson pled guilty to the crime and did not get any benefit in his plea agreement. He could have told police that Smith had no involvement but he told the truth. Laux pointed out that Wilkerson has severe learning disabilities. He had to have help writing the sentence "this was once mine" on a police photograph of the murder weapon. He argued someone like that most likely wouldn't come up with an elaborate murder plan.
He finished by showing the jury a list of all the ways that Smith went wrong in this situation, but ultimately he only had to prove four of those items to prove accomplice liability: Smith drove Wilkerson to Donnie's house, Smith did not stop Wilkerson from stabbing Donnie, Smith did not render aid and he drove home afterwards.
The jury left the courtroom at noon and was back with a verdict by 1:20pm. Judge Williams reminded the family members present not to outburst when the verdict would be read. The jurors unanimously found him guilty on all three of his charges. Members of Donnie's family cried tears of joy and clasped their hands in thanks to God. Smith's wife, Carissa, wept with grief.
Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Harrington gave the following statement:
“The Prosecutor’s Office would like to thank the Lafayette Police Department and the Tippecanoe County High-Tech Crime Unit for their hard work on this investigation as well as the Tippecanoe County Prosecutor’s Office trial team which consisted of Deputy Prosecutors Cassidy Laux and Elyse Madigan and Investigator Brad Hayworth. Most importantly, I hope in some small way, this verdict helps bring justice to the family of Donald Alkire.”
Donnie's family said that while the verdict won't bring their loved one back, they are happy to have this validation and that this is one step forward in the healing process for them. His sentencing hearing is currently set for April 30th.
Click here to read about day one of Smith's trial.
Click here to read about day two of Smith's trial.