Former girlfriend testifies against suspect in BREC park murders

Dominique Smith
Dominique Smith

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The former girlfriend of the man on trial for two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder took the stand Tuesday morning.

Opening statements in the first-degree murder trial of Dominique Smith began in district court Monday morning.

Smith is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder. He is accused of killing Jessica Palmer and her son, Juan, in 2008. They were found in a BREC park in north Baton Rouge with their throats cut. Smith is also suspected of cutting the throat of his own daughter, Paige, who was four years old at the time, and an infant.

Prosecutor Darwin Miller told the jury it will hear from Smith's accomplice, Trindel Mathews, who has already pleaded guilty, to prove his role in the murders. Defense attorneys said Smith wasn't even nearby when the murders happened. They said Smith was working out at a jogging track.

The victims were all found in Doyle's Bayou Park on Pride-Port Hudson Road near Zachary in May 2008. One of the girls had cuts all over her hands, while the other had a cut across her throat. They both survived. Investigators said a complicated love triangle led to the killings. Smith was a former boyfriend of the victim, while Matthews, who was dating Smith at the time of the murders, is Palmer's second-cousin, according to relatives.

"They actually lured Jessica to the park along with her children, where the killings took place," said sheriff's department spokeswoman Casey Hicks back in May 2008.

Detectives believe the killings took place on a Sunday evening at the park and the two young girls who survived were there overnight. They were discovered the Monday afternoon by a BREC worker cutting grass. Johnson and her son were later found in wooded area of the park.

Shortly after the killings, deputies praised four-year-old Lindsay Paige Johnson, whose own throat had been cut, with saving her baby sister.

"If you can imagine a little 4-year-old, who had been cut, pick up her 6-month-old infant sister and carrying her out of those woods and get as far as she did to the front of the park. That's just a miracle," Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said back in May 2008.

Detectives said Dominique Smith is the father of the four-year-old, but is not the father of any of the victim's other children. The sheriff also said Smith's vehicle, which was left at the scene, also led them back to him. Sheriff's officials found his keys and matched them to the truck. However, deputies said the story told by that frightened four-year-old girl was the key to the arrests.

"The statements that we got from the four-year-old were consistent with what we found on the scene," the sheriff said.

On Tuesday, Trindel Mathews first explained to the jury she had been convicted of forgery prior to her involvement in the crime that left Jessica Palmer and her son, Juan Palmer Jr., dead. Dominique Smith is the man suspected of cutting the throats of the four victims in a BREC park in May 2008.

During direct examination from prosecutor Darwin Miller, Mathews admitted she corresponded often with Smith. "I would start off letters to him addressed to 'Pounder' he would call me 'TCP' which means Thick Chocolate Pleasure," testified Mathews under oath.

Mathews also described a video of her and Smith going through Wal-Mart. She says you can see her picking out a bat at the store. Mathews later testified that Smith used that bat to hit the back of Jessica Palmer's head when he initially started the attacks.

Mathews testified that after he cut Jessica's throat he told her to stay with Palmer. She later said she heard a fight between Smith and Juan Palmer, Jr. Mathews said she actually held Palmer's hands when Smith cut his neck. She says she pushed the 4 year old into a small ravine, he struggled to climb out when she said, "I pushed him back down into the ditch."

The jury will visit the crime scene area Wednesday at the park known as Doyle's Bayou.

The prosecution said it should wrap up its case sooner than expected.

Smith is expected to take the stand.

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