Case against man accused of fatally shooting firefighter continues to be held up

KNOX COUNTY — The case against a Girdler man accused of fatally shooting a volunteer firefighter in April 2018 continues to be held up as necessary evidentiary items remain in the possession of police and are still being investigated.

Sidney Smith, 29, appeared in Knox Circuit Court for a pretrial conference Friday — his first since January and just his second since July last year — as prosecutors informed the court that they were still waiting for multiple items to be returned from the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab, where ongoing analysis is being performed.

The case has been essentially at a standstill since last year.

During Smith’s court appearance in July 2018, prosecutors said that a pickup truck allegedly used to transport the body of the deceased was being investigated, a process they expected to take “five to six months” at that time, which pushed the case off into 2019. In January, it was again much of the same as prosecutors asked the case to be pushed out to allow for analysis to be completed and reports to be returned.

Friday’s proceedings were no exception to the pattern, as prosecutors asked that the case be set out until sometime in October. However, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele did state later Friday that he hopes to have all the evidence back by that point. If so, he said that he expects to ask that a trial date be set in the case.

A status hearing has been set for Oct. 4 to allow the court to be updated on the evidence and testing.

On April 14, 2018, Smith allegedly shot Michael Sowders, 32, killing him. He then dumped Sowders’ body in a dumpsite over an embankment off Hinkle Branch Road.

Inmates and guards with the Bell County Forestry Service found the body April 20, 2018, while cleaning up the site.

When more information concerning Sowders’ death was developed, police attempted to locate Smith as a possible suspect. Police found him in the bedroom of a home, where Smith allegedly pointed a gun at them. He was soon restrained and placed under arrest.

Smith is charged with murder, tampering with physical evidence, first-degree wanton endangerment and abuse of a corpse. He was indicted on the charges in May 2018.

Smith remains jailed in the Knox County Detention Center under two separate $100,000 cash bonds and another $20,000 cash bond.

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