Kirby Smith cold case: Rebecca Haynie's bond hearing delayed

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 16, 2014 

The revelation that Judge Frank Jordan Jr. once handled an adoption for Rebecca Smith Haynie's current husband prompted prosecutors to seek a delay in a bond hearing set today for the woman accused of killing her then-estranged husband Kirby Smith Jr. in 2004.

The bond hearing has been rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday. District Attorney Julia Slater said prosecutors requested the delay to investigate whether Jordan should recuse himself because of his prior dealings with the Haynie family.

Defense attorney Mike Reynolds said he didn't believe the matter required Jordan's recusal. Reynolds said that Rebecca Smith Haynie married Heath Haynie after Smith was killed, and Heath Haynie's daughter had a child whom the couple adopted, which is not uncommon for grandparents who become guardians of a child's offspring.

The hearing's postponement was announced after families of both the victim and suspect had waited hours to see what would happen.

Kirby Smith Jr. was found dead in his auto shop in March 2004, but his estranged wife and her alleged lover were not charged in the homicide for 10 years in the murder case against her.

Rebecca Smith Haynie and alleged lover Donald Keith “Bull” Phillips are accused in Smith’s fatal shooting in Kirby’s Speed Shop, 1438 Jacqueline Drive. A coworker found Smith’s body inside the shop about 8 a.m. Monday, March 4, but police believe he was killed about 9 p.m. the day before.

Detectives found no evidence anyone had forced entry into the shop, and determined all that was missing was a gold necklace Smith wore. He still had cash in his pocket, and more money was in a cash box in the shop, indicating he was not robbed by strangers.

During a preliminary hearing June 6 in Columbus Recorder’s Court, investigators testified they immediately considered his estranged wife a suspect, as the two were embroiled in a contentious divorce, and Smith had evidence of his wife’s infidelity. The divorce terms under consideration at the time would have awarded them joint custody of their son Kirby Smith III, so the mother would have received no child support nor gained any settlement, they said.

Haynie back then had talked about wanting Smith dead, and possibly hiring a hit man, they said. Witnesses said she’d also remarked that she would get the gold necklace Smith wore even if she had to remove it from his dead body, detectives said.

Relatives said Haynie had bought the expensive chain as a gift for Smith.

On March 3, 2004, Smith spent part of the day riding dune buggies with his oldest son Dustin, one of two children from an earlier marriage. That evening at his auto shop, he was on his computer, which he had used to post a profile of himself on the online dating site Match.com, investigators said.

They said Haynie and Smith had an AOL account through which Haynie could tell Smith had logged onto his auto shop computer about 8:30 p.m. She then was working as a nurse at a high-risk nursery in a Warm Springs hospital, and later told police she had been called in for an emergency C-section that night, though investigators later determined she had the authority to set her own hours, and suspected she created an alibi.

In 2004, she was living off Edgewood Road near University Avenue. Phillips was at her home that night.

Detectives said witnesses heard an argument that evening between Phillips, Haynie and her then-boyfriend Heath Haynie, whom she married three months after Smith’s death.

Detectives said during that altercation, witnesses overheard Rebecca Haynie say, “I just want to be happy!”

Phillips told police he left the house about 8:45 p.m. to drive to Taco Bell at 7330 Veterans Parkway, a trip investigators estimated at 11 minutes. There he called Rebecca Haynie’s cell phone from a pay phone, they said.

Phone records show the call went through at 9:33 p.m., police said, leaving Phillips time to kill Smith before traveling to Taco Bell.

In 2012, police learned Rebecca Haynie knew Smith was on Match.com that night, though a search of her computers showed no evidence she ever checked the website, detectives said.

As other incriminating evidence, detectives cited discrepancies in what the suspects told them.

They said Phillips initially told them he did not wake up until 4:30 p.m. March 3, 2004, but telephone records showed he was up much earlier. Police said he at first denied having had a sexual relationship with Haynie, but later admitted he had.

They said Rebecca Haynie asked them about checking her hands for gunshot residue, saying she and Heath Haynie had gone hunting that Sunday. Heath Haynie told police the only game in season at the time was turkey, which they didn’t hunt.

Investigators cited a witness they said was a child in 2004, but now was old enough to provide details about Haynie’s relationship with Phillips, telling police Phillips would do anything for Rebecca Haynie, even testify he was gay to hide their sexual affair.

Defense attorney John Martin, who represents Phillips, said he assumed that witness is Kirby Smith III, 17.

Representing Rebecca Haynie is attorney Mike Reynolds, who said he heard no new evidence in the preliminary hearing to bolster the prosecution’s case. Police produced no evidence connecting Rebecca Haynie or Phillips to the crime scene, they noted.

Said Reynolds: “I didn’t hear anything in the context of this hearing today that was any different, so in other words, the strength of their case in 2004 is the same as it is in 2014.”

Carolyn Ratliff, Smith’s ex-wife and mother of his two older children, said Haynie received life insurance benefits from Smith’s death, but police produced no evidence of such financial gain.

Rebecca Haynie has told police what she said about wanting Smith dead was typical of anyone going through a contested divorce, and not to be taken seriously.

Recorder’s Court Judge Michael Cielinski found sufficient cause to order Rebecca Haynie and Phillips held without bond for Superior Court.

Reynolds said then that he would try to get a Superior Court judge to set a bond so Rebecca Haynie could be released from jail as she awaits a possible grand jury indictment, which presumably would be followed by her murder trial.

“It’s going to be a long, arduous process.... We’re going to have to be interviewing witnesses, pulling records ourselves, making a determination of defense strategy and getting ready for this case,” Reynolds said.

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