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Aug. 1, 2021

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Man’s attempted murder trial begins

Portion of attack recorded by phone, court documents say

3 Photos
John Garrett Smith consults with his attorney, Josephine Townsend, Monday during a break in his trial in Clark County Superior Court, where he is charged with attempted murder of his wife.
John Garrett Smith consults with his attorney, Josephine Townsend, Monday during a break in his trial in Clark County Superior Court, where he is charged with attempted murder of his wife. Photo Gallery

By outward appearances, John Garrett Smith, 46, and his wife had an ideal life. They lived in a $1.5 million house on the Columbia River in Vancouver, jointly operated several clean energy businesses and shared common values and interests, including physical fitness.

One night of violence on the evening of June 2, 2013, destroyed everything they had built together, said Smith’s wife, Sheryl.

Smith, who goes by his middle name of Garrett, is on trial in Clark County Superior Court this week. He is charged with the attempted murder of Sheryl Smith, whom he tried to punch and strangle, according to prosecutors.

Smith allegedly then fled the house and left his wife for dead.

“What he didn’t know was that she was still alive,” said Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Nugent during an opening statement Monday.

Sheryl Smith’s daughter, Skylar Williams, then 18, came home and found her mother with a bloody, mangled face, the prosecutor said.

“Whatever happens, make sure they know Garrett did this to me,” Sheryl Smith told her, according to Nugent.

Garrett’s attorney, Josephine Townsend, on Monday reserved her right to give an opening statement. But Smith has previously denied attempting to kill his wife.

“First, I never intended to hurt Sheryl, let alone kill her,” he wrote in a February letter to the court. “Any inference otherwise is simply false.”

The day after the attack, Smith was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault domestic violence, according to court documents.

Williams later found Garrett Smith’s phone and gave it to Vancouver police officers who were at the hospital investigating the assault, court records say. Williams informed police that the phone contained a voice mail message, which may have recorded part of the assault.

In the voice mail recording, Garrett Smith yells loudly at Sheryl Smith, accusing her of having an affair and calling her names, according to an affidavit written by Vancouver police Officer Sandra Aldridge. According to Aldridge, Sheryl Smith screams and tells Garrett to stop.

“Look what you did to me,” she says.

“I will kill you,” he says.

“I know,” Sheryl Smith responds, crying.

Aldridge wrote that she then heard the sounds of the defendant striking Sheryl Smith. Then there are several seconds of silence.

Then Garrett Smith says, “I think she stopped breathing,” according to Aldridge.

The recording was played Monday for Judge Robert Lewis, who will render a verdict in the case. Smith declined to be tried in front of a jury.

Many of the words in the recording were inaudible from the courtroom’s public gallery. However, in the recording, Smith repeatedly asks for his cellphone, and Sheryl Smith can be heard screaming repeatedly.

Smith wrote that he blacked out on the night of the attack after he consumed alcohol and opiate painkillers. He has given several different accounts of the attack, including that he punched Sheryl Smith to defend himself and that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from a bicycle crash.

Sheryl Smith testified Monday that her husband had no history of alcohol or opiate abuse.

She continues to receive medical care for extensive injuries caused by the attack. She sustained a broken nose, a concussion, a back injury, a badly cut lip, severe bruising and swelling and cognitive damage, including memory loss. She said she had to undergo occupational, speech and physical therapy in order to recover her speech and mobility.

She said Monday she doesn’t remember what led up to the attack.

Testimony in Smith’s trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday.