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  1. #1
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    Oct 2010

    Prosecutors Pursue Death Penalty Against Cass Smith in 2010 SC Slayings of 3

    Death penalty sought in killings of 3 in Cowpens home

    COWPENS, S.C. (AP) — A prosecutor says he will seek the death penalty against a man who a South Carolina sheriff says ambushed his ex-girlfriend, her teenage daughter and her new boyfriend in their home.

    Prosecutor Trey Gowdy said Tuesday that 43-year-old Cass Franklin Smith planned the killings last Friday in the Cowpens mobile home he had shared with 41-year-old Suzanne Elizabeth Bridges for five years before they broke up in March.

    Authorities say Smith sneaked up to the home and fired several shots from a revolver through an open window, killing Bridges, her 45-year-old new boyfriend and 15-year-old daughter. Two younger children in the home were not harmed.

    Investigators say Smith admitted to the killings, but in television interviews before his arrest he denied killing anyone.

    Authorities say Smith has not retained a lawyer.

  2. #2
    Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Authorities say a South Carolina man facing a death penalty trial in the killings of 3 people tried to escape from jail.

    Investigators told the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg that Cass Franklin Smith pushed down an Cherokee County jail officer Wednesday night when she opened his cell door and made it to a hallway where he was stopped by a locked door.

    The escape attempt happened a day after prosecutors announced they were seeking the death penalty against Smith in the killings of 41-year-old Suzanne Bridges, her daughter 15-year-old Maggie Wenner and 45-year-old Harold Lick.

    Investigators say Smith shot the three at Bridges' home because he was angry about her new boyfriend.

    Smith told TV stations before his arrest Monday that he was innocent.

  3. #3
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    Oct 2010
    Guilty Plea Rejected In Cherokee County Triple Murder

    GAFFNEY, S.C. --

    The man accused in a Cherokee County triple murder has asked to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty.

    In court documents filed Friday, a defense attorney for the Cass Franklin Smith wrote that Smith has offered to plead guilty to all pending charges against him in exchange for a sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. The sentence would spare him from death by electrocution or lethal injection.

    Solicitor Trey Gowdy's office filed a response Monday, it reads: "We are in receipt of your letter dated May 3, 2010 regarding the above-referenced matter and the defendant's offer to plead guilty to a Life sentence without Possibility of Parole to these charges. With the writing of this letter, we are advising you that we do not accept the defendant's offer and believe that a judge and jury should determine the proper punishment for the murder of three people. We will continue to proceed as a capital case."

    Smith, is accused of killing three people on April 16, including his former girlfriend, her boyfriend and her 15-year-old daughter.

    The case is expected to go to trial in 18 to 24 months.

  4. #4
    Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Exclusive: Heartache And Hope - The Cowpens Triple Murder

    COWPENS, S.C. --

    John Daily has always appreciated the power of written words.

    And he knows what can happen when the right words reach the right person. He and his wife, Margaret, met as pen pals.

    "I was looking for someone I could bear my soul to, and that's easier to do sometimes when you don't have to be face to face," said Daily.

    25 years later, he finds himself looking for word to comfort her.

    “I cry a lot,” said Margaret. “I pray a lot. I go back and cry a lot again.”

    Their lives came unraveled on the morning of April 17, 2010. At 7:30, a frantic banging rattled the door of their mobile home on Emily Lane in Cowpens.

    “I hear these little voices yelling. ‘Papa! Papa!’,” said John Daily. “I get the door open and see two of my grandsons standing there sobbing, tears running down their cheeks.”

    The boys, 10 and 6, had run from their home down the street carrying news to heavy for their ages.

    “They kind of stuttered a little and said, ‘Mommy, Maggie, and Howie are dead’,” said John. “A chill ran down my spine and I knew it was true.”

    The boys awoke on that Saturday morning to find the three other members of their household – their mother, Suzanne Bridges, 41, her fiancé, Howie Lick, 45, and their sister, Maggie Wenner, 15 -- lying on the kitchen floor, shot to death.

    Margaret Daily says Bridges was her best friend (“We did everything together”), but it’s Maggie’s death that hits her the hardest. Maggie was named after Margaret.

    “Maggie was only 15,” says her grandmother, sobbing. “She was just starting her teenage life. It just rips my heart out. It’s like a piece of me is missing and I will never be whole again.”

    Investigators quickly established a suspect: Cass Franklin Smith, Bridges’ ex-boyfriend. He had dated her for six years, living with her and her children most of that time. John Daily says four months before the murders, the couple broke up and Smith moved out. But he didn’t go far, moving in with his mother who lives on Oakdale Road – one street over from Emily Lane and within easy view of Bridges’ home.

    “Cass could be so controlling and manipulative,” said John Daily. “When he moved out, he left a few clothes over at her place so that he always had an excuse to come over at any time. He was constantly watching them, talking to the kids, talking to us, trying to get us to convince Sue to take him back.”

    Margaret says her daughter had moved on with her life and had fallen in love with Benjamin Howard “Howie” Lick. In early April, he moved in with her.

    “She was the happiest I’d ever seen her,” said John. “Howie had proposed to her and they were going to get married. There was so much potential there.”


    The Dailys say though Cass Smith could be “psychologically abusive”, he was never violent. (Investigators say he has no criminal record.) And they certainly never thought he was capable of murder.

    “He just doesn’t have the guts to do that,” said Margaret.

    But their opinion changed after seeing Smith on WSPA’s Sunday evening newscast the day after the bodies were found. During an interview outside his mother’s home, Smith identified himself as the main suspect – he even admitted he failed a polygraph – but he denied having any involvement in the murders.

    “I would never do anything to hurt Suzanne or Maggie, or that other guy, for that matter,” said Smith.

    He admitted he was “heartbroken” that Bridges had broken up with him and found a new boyfriend.

    “I love her, and I guess I always will”, Smith said, as he sniffed and turned away from the camera.

    "When I saw that on TV, I knew immediately he was lying,” said John Daily. “That little sob when he said he loved her, that was as false as anything in the world could be false."

    Smith was arrested the next day and charged with three counts of first degree murder. In a news conference following the arrest, Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton said Smith confessed to the crimes, saying he crept up behind the mobile home at night and shot Bridges, Lick and Wenner through an open window. Blanton said Smith admitted he was “upset and jealous” about Bridges’ new life with Lick, but he did not offer an explanation as to why he also shot 15-year old Maggie, a freshman at Gaffney High School.

    John Daily thinks Maggie just happened to be in the room when Smith showed up.

    “If (the boys) had been in the kitchen and not asleep in their bedroom, he probably would have shot them, too,” said Daily.

    Blanton said it’s the first triple murder in Cherokee County history. 7th Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy announced his office is seeking the death penalty against Smith. Earlier this month, Smith’s public defender sent a letter to Gowdy, telling him Smith has offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole. On Monday, Gowdy’s office filed a response, rejecting the offer and stating he will pursue the capital case and allow a judge and jury to decide if death is a fitting punishment.

    John Daily says he is still uncertain about whether or not Smith deserves to die if he is convicted, but Margaret has no reservations.

    "I hate to sound angry, but if I am lucky enough to see him die, I want to be there,” says Margaret. “I want to look in his face until his last breath is gone. Because there's nothing more dear to me than what he took."


    More than a month after the murders, the mobile home where three lives were abruptly taken sits empty. Five homes up the street, John and Margaret Daily are finding ways to cope with the anger and sadness created by the deaths of their daughter and granddaughter.

    John has even found purpose in it.

    It started on the day he learned of the murders. Margaret had been in the hospital for two months. During that time, John had developed a friendship with a woman across the hall. On the day John had to break the awful news to Margaret at the hospital, he also shared it with his new friend – who told him she, too, had lost a loved one to murder years ago.

    “There I was, feeling so alone, my family has been struck by murder, and here is this woman who has been through the exact same thing,” said John. “We talked and she gave me such comfort. The Lord led her to me, and so I need to be there for anyone who's going through this kind of thing, to give whatever guidance I can. Because it's not easy, but we can get through it. There's always hope."

    That experience led him to start a blog. Titled “This Is The Day of Hope”, it’s based on his favorite Bible verse, Psalm 118:24.

    "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it,” said Daily. “This. Today. Yesterday's a canceled check. You can do nothing about it. Tomorrow is at the very best a promise, and I learned last month that tomorrow doesn't always come."

    The blog contains his raw account of the morning of April 17th as he tried to comfort his shocked grandsons, but more importantly to him, it contains the daily process he uses to conquer the ever-present grief and anger.

    “The key is, ‘Let us rejoice’, meaning it’s a choice,” said Daily. “We need to forget about tomorrow and focus on today. We have a choice in how we will face it. Will you make it positive or negative?”

    Daily now bears his soul online, leaving what he hopes are the right words for the next of tear-filled eyes.

  5. #5
    Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    May 8, 2013

    Man charged with murder seeks new attorneys

    Ledger Staff Writer

    A Cowpens man facing the possibility of a death sentence for a 2010 triple murder is asking the Cherokee County General Sessions Court to appoint new lawyers for him, arguing that his life is at stake and that he has lost all confidence in them.

    In a handwritten motion filed with the Clerk of Courts Office and also personally mailed to The Gaffney Ledger, Cass Franklin Smith claims he has suffered emotional distress and verbal abuse as a result of his counsel and that one of his defense attorneys violated a court-ordered gag order in the case by telling confidential information to officers at the Cherokee County Detention Center, where Smith, 46, is presently being held.

    While Smith does not offer specifics about the type of information that allegedly was shared, he claims one of his other defense attorneys told him the gag order only applied to the press. Smith is arguing the gag order, which was sought by his lead attorney shortly after his 2010 arrest, applied to his attorneys as well.

    “Do not discuss the case to nobody period,” according to his motion for new counsel. “These wicked games will not be tolerate (sic). This act of bad faith violate the defendant Constitutional right’s.”

    He added in his motion, “At first it was blessing to have three lawyers but now it has become a curse.”

    Attorney Clay Fowler, who serves as the chief public defender at the Spartanburg County Public Defenders Office, and 7th Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette, who is prosecuting the case, both declined comment about Smith’s request when reached Friday.

    Smith notes in the handwritten motion that he was forced to hire a “jail house lawyer” for advice. It was unclear if Smith or his jail house lawyer wrote the motion.

    There was no indication in the court record if a hearing has been scheduled on Smith’s request. It also isn’t immediately clear when his case is headed for trial.

    Smith is charged with three counts of murder for the April 2010 shooting deaths of three people inside an Emily Lane, Cowpens, residence. Investigators alleged that Smith fired a handgun from the exterior of the home through a window, striking and killing 41-year-old Suzanne Bridges, her 15-year-old daughter Margaret Wenner, and Bridges’ boyfriend, Harold Benjamin Lick, 45, of Blacksburg.

    Smith and Bridges, who had been a couple for as long as six years, reportedly broke up just a few weeks before the shootings. Smith had moved into his mother’s nearby home on Oakdale Road.

    While Smith denied any involvement during several interviews with local television stations, former Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton said during a press conference after Smith’s arrest that Smith subsequently confessed to the killings during interviews with investigators from the sheriff’s office and from SLED. Smith also was cooperating in the search for evidence, the sheriff said at the time, allegedly having told investigators where he threw the murder weapon.

    Prosecutors previously served notice of their intent to seek the death penalty in the case.

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