Clairton man found guilty in 2011 killing

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A Clairton man was found guilty of second-degree murder today in the 2011 shooting death of Justin J. Charles.

Gary Smith, 27, was found guilty on all counts including criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide, robbery, recklessly endangering another person and other related charges.

Smith was accused of a role in the killing of Charles, 28, the afternoon of Oct. 14, 2011, inside a Clairton home.

Investigators said a witness told them that before the shooting Charles had brought Smith and another man, Eugene McMiller, 20, inside the home so he could buy drugs from them, according to an Allegheny County police criminal complaint.

Smith and McMiller left, came back and the witness said he heard Smith asking Charles, "where's the money, where's the money" and fighting with him in the kitchen, police said.

The witness told detectives that Smith was carrying a gun as he and McMiller went with Charles upstairs. The witness said he heard one shot, then more as Charles tried to run away.

Judge Beth Lazzara said today at the close of the non-jury trial that the case hinged on one question -- whether one witness account was credible and believable.

After reviewing her notes and listening carefully to the witness -- who testified that he saw Smith leaving the home and also saw him with the gun -- she said she found that it was.

"His testimony, in my mind, was substantiated by much of the other evidence in this case: by the fingerprint on the door, by Mr. Smith's own words as to who he was with at the time that this murder was occurring," the judge said. "So, in my mind, he is a very credible witness."

Smith's attorney had no comment after the trial.

McMiller was found guilty of criminal homicide and other charges and sentenced in January to life in prison in the case.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede.


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