Police: 15-year-old choked woman

Gary Smith pleads not guilty to CSU student's slaying

benw@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 14, 2012 

A teen told police he argued with Marylul Poupart and panicked Thursday before choking the woman to death, a Columbus police detective testified Saturday.

Gary Jamaricus Smith, 15, is charged with murder in the death of the 21-year-old woman, a junior biology student at Columbus State University. He also faces one count each of theft by taking the woman's 2005 Cadillac Deville, felony theft of items from her vehicle and robbery.

Smith, represented by public defender Charles Lykins, pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He was ordered held without bond and the case was bound over to Superior Court.

Detective Daniel Lyon testified that Smith was given Poupart's phone number from a friend before she was called to the 216 Sidney Drive home Thursday morning. Sometime between 10:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., Poupart and Smith were alone inside the home when an argument ensued. In a statement to police, the teen said he panicked and choked the woman, Lyon said.

"Smith admitted choking her," he said.

Lyon didn't have an answer when Lykins asked why was Poupart at the house.

"That's under investigation," the detective said.

The investigation revealed that the woman was dragged outside to the backyard where her body was found about 6 p.m. It was discovered by the teen's mother, Kail Smith, as the father, Gary B. Smith, went outside to smoke a cigarette. The woman's body was covered with a sheet. She had marks around her neck and on her elbow, Lyon said.

After the argument, the teen left the house in the victim's Cadillac.

A witness told police the teen was behind the wheel when the car struck a fence in front of the home. Smith picked up two friends but they had no idea what had occurred, Lyon said. The teen attempted to sell items that were inside Poupart's car.

A police report said the items included an iPhone and iPad. Four-hundred dollars in cash was also inside the car.

The teen was not home when the body was found.

Lyon said the teen may have been watching authorities from a nearby church where the vehicle was recovered and he was picked up later that evening.

Poupart, of Greenville, Ga., was a 2009 graduate of Columbus High School. Two close friends, Lendon Alexander and Nakita James, came to the hearing to learn more details about her death. Neither ever heard of the teen suspect.

"I'm just looking to see justice come out of the situation," said Alexander, who met Poupart in his 10th-grade band class where she played the flute.

Alexander said he was shocked to learn his high school friend was dead.

"I didn't believe it," said Alexander, a student at the University of Georgia. "I didn't want to believe it. Being back in Columbus makes it real."

He remembers her as a carefree person.

"If anything you wanted to do that was fun, Mary would be down to do it," he said. "In high school we stayed across from Flat Rock Park. We used to go and shoot videos and act like explorers."

James said Poupart was very excited about her studies at CSU. She wanted to graduate and eventually go to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "She was extremely focused," said James, a student at Mercer University in Macon. "Every time I would talk to her, she would emphasize the importance of her grades and how she was doing so well in school."

Both are left with only memories.

"It hurts, definitely," Alexander said. "It makes you realize you can't take any day for granted."

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