Two young men testified Friday they pleaded for their father’s life while speaking to the man who allegedly murdered their father about 17 months later when he tracked down his wife and the 20th Century Fox distribution executive during a late-night romantic rendezvous.
Gavin Smith’s youngest son, Austin, told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury he begged John Creech “not to hurt my dad.” He said he and his older brother, Evan, met with Creech at his West Hills home in December 2010 to discuss their father’s affair with Creech’s wife.
“I said, `I’m in eighth grade. I’m too young to lose my dad,”‘ he testified, with his voice shaking as he recalled the conversation. “I was crying and pleading with him not to do anything to my father.”
Austin Smith, now 21, said Creech told the two that they had “saved his (my father’s) life by coming and pleading with him.” But he said Creech told them there would be “problems” if their father contacted his wife, Chandrika Cade, again, noting that he assumed the threat meant his father would be killed.
The testimony came on the second day of Creech’s trial for the May 2012 killing of Gavin Smith, 57, whose remains were discovered after hikers came upon a shallow grave in the Antelope Valley about 2 1/2 years later.
Prosecutors allege Smith was killed either on May 1, 2012, or early the next day.
Creech’s attorney, Irene Nunez, has argued that her client killed Smith in self-defense and then made “errors in judgment” by trying to conceal the body of the former UCLA basketball player, who was on the 1975 NCAA-winning basketball team under Coach John Wooden and had worked for 20th Century Fox for 18 years.
Smith’s oldest son, Evan, testified that he went with his mother and youngest brother to speak with Creech after learning that his father had been unfaithful to his mother and that “the husband of the woman that my dad was speaking to was dangerous.”
“I said that we were (there) on behalf of my father,” Evan Smith said, telling jurors that Creech responded that Gavin Smith was the “scum of the earth” and “a predator” who had “preyed” on his wife.
Evan Smith said Creech was “threatening, saying that his boys had been following my dad” and knew where he and his younger brother went to school.
“I was just begging him not to harm my family,” Evan Smith testified, noting that his younger brother was “crying his eyes out the entire time.”
Evan Smith said he repeatedly apologized for his father’s behavior, and said he understood Creech’s statement to the two that they had “saved” their father’s life to mean that his father’s life had been in danger.
Evan Smith — who was 20 at the time — testified that he promised Creech his father would not talk to Creech’s wife again, and Creech suggested that his father would be “taken care” of if he contacted Creech’s wife again.
“I believed that we resolved the situation,” Evan Smith said, telling jurors that he later spoke to his father about the conversation with Creech.
He said he ceased contact with his father in April 2012 after learning from his mother that he had been “talking to another woman,” but still loved him and “couldn’t wrap my head around why my dad would just disappear” a few weeks later and not show up to take his youngest brother to school on May 2, 2012.
In his opening statement Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace told jurors that the threat Creech made to Smith’s two sons was “a downpayment to murder.”
The prosecutor told jurors Creech was angered over his wife’s repeated dalliances with Smith, and said the evidence would show he used a GPS phone app to surprise the two during a “romantic tryst” in the passenger seat of Smith’s black Mercedes-Benz not far from the Creech home.
He said Creech began beating Smith and continued pounding him even after Smith appeared to be unconscious and Creech’s wife yelled at him to stop.
Creech’s attorney countered that a dispute between the two men got physical and that her client thought the fight was over but had to “defend himself” and do a “leg sweep” when Smith came at him wielding something that looked like a hammer and ice pick.
“What we have here is a case of self-defense,” she said.
Testimony is set to resume Monday when jurors are expected to hear from Cade.
Creech, a 44-year-old convicted drug dealer, could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder and if jurors find true the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait.
–City News Service