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Survivors talk about the day of Acampo double homicide

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Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:10 am, Wed Apr 6, 2011.

Howard Daniel Smith knocked on Lorie-Ann Irvine's door and told her, "I just killed Bill and Jay for talking smack about me stealing stuff."

"Then I noticed the rifle in his hand," Irvine said.

Irvine, 43, and her boyfriend, Gary Morris, 34, told the News-Sentinel about what they saw on March 25, when Smith allegedly shot to death Jonathan "Jay" Meagher, 48, and his father, William Meagher, 84, at their residence on Homestead Lane in northeastern Acampo.

"There are a million stories out there that aren't right," Irvine said.

Irvine was Smith's boyfriend for a few months. She said he has been incarcerated several times. After being paroled from jail, Irvine said she got Smith some help through her church, First Baptist in Lodi, so that he could start a new life. But she gave him a stern warning.

"I told him that if he ever went to jail again — even for jaywalking — it was over," Irvine said.

Smith was arrested about a year ago when residents said they heard gunshots, Irvine said. Smith claimed it was only a BB gun, but he was arrested anyway and Irvine put an end to their relationship. About two weeks later, she met Morris.

Irvine wonders if Smith wanted to kill her when he arrived on their property on March 25. Shortly after Irvine returned home, Smith yelled through the side door to the back residence where Irvine and Morris lived.

She stepped outside to talk to Smith. She told him that she and Morris were "doing good," and for Smith to leave them alone. Smith then said he killed the Meaghers for accusing him of stealing some coins from Meagher about a year ago.

Smith then left the Irvine/ Morris house and tried to drive William Meagher's car away from the driveway both residences share, but he couldn't start it.

About a minute later, Smith returned to the Irvine/Morris house and allegedly fired a gunshot through the side door. The bullet went through the door and penetrated Morris' left foot. Morris was inside the door and shoved his girlfriend behind him for safety.

"I feel if it weren't for (Morris), I might not be alive, so he's my hero," Morris said.

He replied, "I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

Smith then asked for the keys to Morris' and Irvine's truck. Morris replied, "It doesn't need keys. Please leave."

Smith left the property in the truck. He was arrested after leading authorities on a high-speed chase to the Highway 99-Harney Lane area.

Irvine and Morris are trying to recover from the emotional trauma they experienced from what they encountered. Morris is also recovering from being shot in the foot.

"It shattered all his bones," Irvine said about her boyfriend's injuries.

Morris had surgery at Lodi Memorial Hospital the night he was shot. His foot was swollen and full of stitches on Monday.

Irvine said they are stranded on their property because Smith allegedly stole their truck on the day the Meaghers were killed.

Morris and Irvine live six miles east of Highway 99, northwest of Jahant and Elliott roads. Without their truck, they can't go grocery shopping, though her church has helped them with food. She can't take Morris to medical appointments in Lodi for additional treatment on his foot, and they can't get to church on Sundays.

The truck was impounded after Smith, 40, was arrested on March 25. Irvine and Morris say they can't afford to pick up the truck because it will cost them about $700 in fees to get it back. And the fee goes up daily, they said.

The couple hopes a good-hearted soul is willing to donate a cheap vehicle just so they can run errands.

"We don't care what it looks like as long as it's legal," she said.

Morris said he feels uncomfortable because he's never had to ask for financial help before.

Irvine was a service writer for Harley Davidson and Firestone. Now, she babysits an ex-fiance's three granddaughters, ages 7, 5 and 20 months. She says she feels fortunate that the girls were at their grandfather's house at the time of the shooting. Usually, they spend their afternoons at Irvine's residence, and they would have been in the house when Smith arrived.

Morris said he had a few jobs in the past, mostly in auto repair and construction. He's in the process of applying for permanent Social Security benefits due to a previous stress-related disability.

In addition to Morris' foot injuries, the couple is enduring emotional scars from the March 25 incident.

"All the blankets in our house have blood on them," Irvine said as tears welled in her eyes.

Neither say they sleep much, Morris because he feels paranoid whenever he hears a noise.

"He's afraid that if he falls asleep, I won't be here when he wakes up," Irvine said. "And I can't sleep because I'm afraid that if he's in pain, I won't be there to help him. If the (bed) sheet even rubs the top of his foot, he screams."

Meagher family members going through their possessions at their house at the front of the property declined to comment on the incident.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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