LANCASTER, Calif. – A Los Angeles County judge on Friday ordered that Anthony Wayne Smith, a defensive lineman who played for eight years in the 1990s for the NFL's Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, must stand trial for four murders.
Judge Lisa Chung ruled after a four-day preliminary hearing in a court in Lancaster north of Los Angeles that there was sufficient evidence for Smith, 45, to stand trial for the killings that came in a nine-year span beginning the year after Smith's NFL career ended, when prosecutors say he quickly went from terrorizing quarterbacks to a life of very real violence.
Smith had already been tried for one of the killings: the 2008 death of Maurilio Ponce, a mechanic found stomped, beaten and shot along a Southern California desert highway in what prosecutors called a business deal gone wrong.
A jury deadlocked 8-4 in April in favor of guilt, and in July while awaiting retrial, Smith was charged with the other murders.
They include the 1999 killing of Kevin and Ricky Nettles, brothers found shot to death, their bodies dumped about eight miles apart, after they were kidnapped from a Los Angeles car wash.
He's also charged in the June 2001 killing of Dennis Henderson, who, along with another man, was kidnapped in Los Angeles by several gunmen. The other man was let go, but Henderson was found stabbed to death in a rental car.
Defense attorney Daniel Evans said prosecutors have cited no credible motive in any of the cases, and said they all lack physical evidence.
"There's no DNA evidence, there's no fingerprints evidence, there's no ballistics evidence that tie him to any of these cases," Evans told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday night.
The cases will be combined into a single trial. They include special circumstances allegations that make Smith eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will seek it, district attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.
The case returns to court for a hearing Oct. 29.
Smith, drafted as a pass rusher 11th overall by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1990, amassed 57 1/2 sacks and 190 tackles before retiring in 1998, after the team had returned to Oakland.