A determined Los Angeles Police Department detective identified a suspected killer after 16 years, but getting the man to trial is also proving to be a lengthy task. Suspect Kevin Bernard Smith Jr.’s preliminary hearing date has been continued (“postponed” in laymen’s terms) several times, according to Shiara Davila-Morales, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney, while Smith’s public defender pursues the legal avenues available for his client’s defense.
Smith’s public defender did not return calls, but the DA’s spokeswoman said that Smith, age 35, is now undergoing a psychiatric evaluation to see if he is competent to stand trial, though it’s not clear why Smith’s attorney asked for that evaluation. Smith is charged in the shooting death of Studio City resident Rupert Thompson and the attempted killing of Thompson’s wife, Dorothy, back in 1994.
“Dorothy Thompson is anxious to get going on this,” said LAPD Detective Steven Castro.
Castro is the North Hollywood Division detective who decided to give the blood DNA evidence another try after he reviewed the cold case back in 2009.
“There were a couple of drops of blood not id’d,” Castro said. “I requested it be submitted again, with the advances in DNA.”
Castro’s attempt paid off. He said he got a DNA hit on Smith from a national database in August 2010. The suspect was in a Mississippi prison on an unrelated drug conviction at the time.
Castro arrested Smith last fall. The defendant has since pled not guilty to charges including murder, attempted murder and robbery.
The crime happened back on January 26, 1994. According to police reports, Rupert and Dorothy Thompson were nearly asleep in their ground floor bedroom, in the 11100 block of Aqua Vista Street in Studio City, when Dorothy Thompson heard glass shatter. She then recalled seeing a gunman at the foot of the couple’s bed, said Castro. The man shot both Rupert and Dorothy Thompson in the torso. Dorothy blacked out.
Rupert Thompson struggled with the gunman, Castro said. Thompson ran to his front yard screaming as the suspect escaped. Thompson later died. He was 73. Castro said Smith, then 18, escaped with jewelry and other items.
Dorothy Thompson is now in her mid 80’s. Castro said she was shot near the right shoulder. The bullet remains in her body. Her shoulder is partially paralyzed. She is grateful, Castro said, that a suspect has been identified.
“I am happy that I was fortunate enough to give the surviving victim (Dorothy Thompson) the news,” said Castro.
Now, he said he hopes that she will be able to see Smith judged in court.
His next court date is set for June 21. The D.A.‘s spokeswoman said there may be a hearing that day to determine whether Smith is fit to stand trial. If he is, the court will hold a preliminary hearing to decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with the case. Then Smith and Dorothy Thompson may both have their day in court.