Man pleads guilty to fatal shooting of brother-in-law

The heat of passion drove Elijah Hargerty, 20, to shoot his brother-in-law eight times Feb. 1, a Prince William County prosecutor said Wednesday.

Odean Alexander Smith died from his wounds. His wife, who attempted to stop her brother from shooting Smith, was accidentally shot in the chin and chest, according to Prince William County police.

Hargerty, wearing a blue-checkered blazer and light blue button-down shirt with no tie, pleaded guilty in Prince William County Circuit Court to one count of voluntary manslaughter and one count of shooting inside an occupied dwelling.

A deal with prosecutors reduced the charges from murder, two counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and malicious wounding.

The reduced charges angered six Smith’s sisters who attended the trial. Hargerty looked in their direction, when police Detective James Moore told the court how many times Smith, the youngest of 13 children, was shot.

Hargerty ran upstairs during a fight at the couple’s home, unlocked the safety on a .380 semi-automatic and came back into the room where he shot Smith.

“How could he go and get a gun and cock it upstairs?” Ulden Smith said. “How is that heat of passion?”

The gun belonged to the victim, police said.

During an argument at their home in the 4900 block of Benecia Lane near Montclair, Denesia Paul took her husband’s gun and refused to give it back until he returned her rings, according to testimony in Prince William County Circuit Court.

Smith was going to pawn the rings to pay for a new gun if his wife didn’t return it, Prince William County police Detective James Moore testified.

Paul told her brother to go get the gun, which was hidden in a duffel bag upstairs. Hargerty brought the gun downstairs, so his sister could barter for her rings, Moore said.

Paul and Smith could not agree on who would make the exchange first. Hargerty, who had been punched and kicked by Smith when he stepped in earlier to defend his sister, ran upstairs to unlock the gun’s trigger guard unimpeded, Moore said.

“He was in the right frame of mind,” Smith’s sister Janice Hodge, 30, said of Hargerty. “He thought about it. He went upstairs and got a gun.”

Hargerty faces a maximum of 15 years in prison with no parole.

“He got off easy,” said Smith’s sister Marilyn Raymo, 40.

The decision to reduce the charges came from a pretrial evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the case and discussion with defense attorney Ronald Fahy, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Phipps said. Fahy refused to comment on Hargerty’s pleas.

“We concluded … there was a strong element of the heat of passion,” Phipps said.