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Suspect in Acampo double homicide refuses lawyer, faces numerous charges

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Howard D. Smith

Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:04 pm | Updated: 6:49 am, Sat Apr 2, 2011.

The man accused of murdering an Acampo father and son appeared in court for an arraignment Tuesday afternoon, and was charged with 19 pages worth of violations.

Howard Daniel Smith, 40, did not enter a plea Tuesday, but did refuse to have an attorney represent him. Superior Court Judge Thomas Harrington said his refusal would be addressed at the next court date, to ensure Smith understood his rights as a defendant.

Additional details also surfaced about the circumstances of the double homicide, which occurred Friday around 4:30 p.m., and the criminal history of the defendant.

According to San Joaquin County District Attorney Thomas Testa, Smith knew at least two of the victims, and robbery was a partial motive in the incident. Overall, there were four victims involved, Testa said: the two men who were shot and killed, a woman and her boyfriend or fiance. Smith allegedly shot at the two survivors, hitting the man in the foot. The woman was unharmed.

The two men killed were Jonathan Meagher, 48, and his father, William Robert Meagher, 84. The incident occurred at their Acampo home in the 24000 block of Homestead Lane.

Smith sat motionless as Harrington read every single charge aloud in court, and responded simply with a "Yes, sir," after each charge. The defendant said he could not afford an attorney, and did not want one, either.

Harrington ordered that a Faretta form would have to be filled out by Smith, which will prove if he adequately understands his rights and is competent enough to decline legal representation. That process will occur at the next hearing.

"He certainly seemed quite competent to me, and self-aware," Testa said of Smith. "I found his attitude interesting ... I detected no hesitation, like he may have given this a lot of thought."

Testa said the 19-page criminal complaint was one of the longest he'd seen in a while, and it lists 10 different felony counts, with 46 enhancements.

Among the charges Smith faces are first-degree murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery, evading police, carjacking and possessing an assault weapon. The complaint states that the assault weapon was an AK-47.

Court documents show that Smith has multiple prior convictions, all of which occurred in Stanislaus County. He was convicted of taking a vehicle without consent in 1997, first-degree burglary in 1999, and petty theft in 1997 and 2007.

If convicted of first-degree murder charges, it is possible Smith could receive the death penalty, Testa said.

Contact reporter Fernando Gallo at fernando@lodinews.com.

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