Waggaman, LA – A grand jury has indicted the wife of a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office sergeant with second-degree murder for her role in his June shooting death.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Sergeant Troy Smith died on June 24, approximately one week after he was shot in the head in his bedroom on Father’s Day.
The incident occurred at approximately 11:25 p.m. on June 17, when Shantel Parria-Smith called 911 to report that Sgt. Smith, 44, had tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head, WGNO reported.
She later claimed that the sergeant shot himself by accident while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, The New Orleans Advocate reported.
The father-of-two was rushed to a local hospital, but succumbed to his injuries seven days later, The Times-Picayune reported.
"Everybody was in disbelief," Sgt. Smith’s longtime friend and former classmate Henry Latten told the news outlet at the time. "None of this sat right with us."
Based on forensic evidence and interviews, investigators determined that Sgt. Smith’s gunshot wound was not self-inflicted and obtained a warrant for Parria-Smith’s arrest, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Jason Rivarde said.
“We knew the truth would come out,” the sergeant’s longtime friend, retired New Orleans Police Captain Bruce Little said.
Parria-Smith was arrested for second-degree murder on July 11.
A Jefferson Parish grand jury handed down the indictment on Thursday, and the judge subsequently raised her bond from $300,000 to $750,000, The Times-Picayune reported.
Just three days earlier, her attorneys filed a motion requesting that the preliminary hearing into the case be reopened, The New Orleans Advocate reported.
The lawyers cited an amended Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office report regarding the sergeant’s autopsy, which noted that a hole in the top of the sergeant’s skull had been made by surgeons prior to his death, not by the bullet’s exit.
The true exit wound, according to the amended report, was in the same location as an incision made by the surgeon, and “was subsequently sutured and stapled” closed.
The motion claimed that hospital staff did not notice anything suspicious about the shooting, and that they found it to be consistent Parria-Smith’s account of a suicide.
A toxicology report also indicated that Sgt. Smith had opiates, amphetamines, and alcohol in his system at the time of the shooting.
“These findings are further proof in support of Ms. Parria-Smith’s consistent story that Sgt. Smith was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he accidentally shot himself,” the motion read, according to The New Orleans Advocate.
But in August, a forensic pathologist testified that Sgt. Smith did not have any gunpowder abrasions or burns as a result of the shooting.
Investigators also concluded that the sergeant was shot in the back of his head, above his ear, from about two or three feet away, WDSU reported.
The coroner was unable to conclusively determine whether the sergeant’s death was a homicide or a suicide, and classified it as “undetermined,” according to The New Orleans Advocate.
According to court records, the couple had been married since November of 2016.
Although they had filed for bankruptcy on June 1, the couple generally seemed happy.
"You can tell when a man loves a woman," neighbor Kathy LaBorde told The Times-Picayune. "You could tell he loved her. And I thought she loved him."
Despite investigators’ findings, Parria-Smith has maintained that Sgt. Smith’s gunshot wound was self-inflicted.
"We have evidence from the day he took his own life that he was depressed, had been drinking and taking muscle relaxers and had been engaging in dark, suicidal social media posts," attorney Leo Palazzo told The New Orleans Advocate.
"This is a true tragedy. But this is a suicide, not a homicide," the attorney said.
He added that Parria-Smith has been “in shock” since the incident occurred, The New Orleans Advocate reported.
“She’s been traumatized by the whole event,” Palazzo said.
Her mother, Tevan Welch, said the indictment felt like a conviction, WVUE reported.
“It’s just destroying her entire life,” Welch said. “She misses her children dearly, and her family.”
But Latten said that the outcome of the investigation confirmed the suspicions that he and Sgt. Smith’s friends and coworkers had been mulling for weeks, according to The Times-Picayune.
"She walked up to me and said, 'I just want you to know that Troy did not kill himself. I was in the bedroom with him, and it was an accident,'" Latten said of one conversation he had with Parria-Smith.
Sgt. Smith’s lifelong dream was to become a law enforcement officer, Latten recalled.
"Troy's wanted to be a police officer since we were in the ninth grade. We used to call him Tackleberry," Latten said, referring to the highly energetic officer in the “Police Academy” movies.
Capt. Little said that Sgt. Smith, who joined the New Orleans Police Department in 1995, was the “poster boy” for the agency.
During his time with the New Orleans PD, he was a bomb technician and a SWAT team member.
In 2011, he began working for Tulane University and also started training other law enforcement officers in defensive tactics and officer survival, Orleans Levee District Police Chief Kerry Najolia told The Times-Picayune.
Chief Najolia, former Commander of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Training Academy, said that he recruited Sgt. Smith to become an instructor at the training facility in 2013.
Sgt. Smith accepted the position and continued working in that capacity, and as a hostage negotiator, until the time of his murder.
“[His] focus and energy was on keeping policemen alive, keeping them safe,” Chief Najolia said. “He was just an outstanding person and a wonderful, knowledgeable instructor.”
He was also a civilian contractor with the Department of Defense, and was a First Lieutenant in the Mississippi State Guard, according to his obituary.
In 2017, Sgt. Smith was named Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for both the State Guard Association of the United States and the Mississippi State Guard, The Times-Picayune reported.
Sgt. Smith leaves behind two sons, Dominic and Gabriel, and two stepdaughters, Vayda and Layla, according to his obituary.