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Victor Colbert goes on trial for 2012 Bel Air homicide

The trial of Victor Levi Colbert, who has been charged in the 2012 stabbing death of Rodney Holmes Smith in the victim’s Bel Air apartment, got underway this week in Harford County Circuit Court following nearly five years of delays.
The trial of Victor Levi Colbert, who has been charged in the 2012 stabbing death of Rodney Holmes Smith in the victim’s Bel Air apartment, got underway this week in Harford County Circuit Court following nearly five years of delays. (MATT BUTTON/THE AEGIS/BSMG)

The trial of Victor Levi Colbert, who has been charged in the 2012 stabbing death of Rodney Holmes Smith in the victim’s Bel Air apartment, began this week following nearly five years of delays.

Colbert, 36, is representing himself during the jury trial, over which Harford County Circuit Court Judge M. Elizabeth Bowen is presiding. Assistant State’s Attorney Cristin E. Treaster led the prosecution as testimony started Monday and continued into Tuesday afternoon.

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The trial could go through early next week, depending on the time needed for the state to present its case and for Colbert to present his defense, Harford State’s Attorney Joseph Cassilly said.

Colbert has alternated, over the years, between representing himself and hiring and later firing attorneys, according to court records. The defendant was found incompetent to stand trial in July 2014, but he was found “not incompetent” two years later, according to court records.

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Colbert has also filed multiple motions regarding the evidence against him, according to court records.

Colbert made repeated challenges to the state’s case during cross examination of Harford County Sheriff’s Office detectives Monday and Tuesday. He questioned how investigators collected and processed evidence, including the shoes one investigator took off Colbert’s feet after he was arrested, and pointed out potential discrepancies in witness statements.

Sheriff’s Office investigators assisted the Bel Air Police Department, according to trial testimony.

Police found Smith’s body Dec. 8, 2012, in his apartment in the 200 block of Baltimore Pike. The victim was 52, according to an obituary on Smith, published online Dec. 14, 2012 on the website of the Connecticut Post, of Bridgeport, Conn.

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Colbert, who lived in Dundalk at the time, was arrested at his residence on Dec. 11, 2012. A Harford County District Court judge later ordered him held in the county detention center without bail.

He is charged with first-degree murder and wearing and carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, according to online court records.

Colbert’s mother, Patricia Colbert Brown, watched the proceedings Tuesday morning in the Harford County Courthouse’s ceremonial courtroom.

Her son remains in the Harford County Detention Center, Brown said shortly after all parties broke for lunch.

Brown said she thinks “the system is working, because they’re following all procedures that are necessary in a case like this.”

“Being his mother, I did not raise a murderer,” she said. “With the system working and with prayer, I believe things will turn out OK.”

Colbert issued a number of objections as Treaster presented the state’s case Monday and Tuesday, which meant Bowen had to stop the proceedings for bench conferences. Treaster issued her own objections as Colbert cross-examined investigators, and Bowen called more bench conferences.

Treaster cited hearsay as she objected to Colbert’s questioning of a Sheriff’s Office fingerprint expert Monday. The defendant asked the witness about how other detectives handled blood evidence and whether it had been sent for DNA testing, and also if he knew of statements given to other investigators about an unidentified man leaving the apartment bleeding from his right eye and shouting he would come back and kill Mr. Smith.

Colbert’s fingerprint, found on a vodka bottle at the scene, was a key piece of evidence investigators used to identify him as a suspect, according to prosecutors.

Bowen admonished Colbert from the bench for his conduct, and she could be heard admonishing him — sharply, at times — during conferences.

Colbert wore glasses, a dress shirt, tie and dress pants and projected a calm demeanor during the proceedings, although he expressed exasperation at the state’s continued objections.

Smith’s parents, Hugh and Sally Smith, of Southport, Conn. were in the courtroom Monday and Tuesday. They said Monday that their son moved to Bel Air less than a year before his death to work and participate in a local Alcoholics Anonymous program.

“It was a very good program here,” Sally Smith said.

She expressed frustration about delays leading up to the trial, saying “the suspect gets the benefit of the doubt.”

“Finally it’s come to a judge who [said], ‘No more of that,’ so we’re very thankful for that,” Smith said.

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