The murder trial for Terrell Gibson began Tuesday with prosecutors saying surveillance cameras captured the 22-year-old entering an apartment to kill the brother of the city police spokesman.
The shooting death of Dionay Smith in July 2017 rattled the city, showing that no family was safe from Baltimore’s pervasive street violence, not even the younger brother of Chief T.J. Smith.
Dionay Smith was among the 342 people killed last year. Police found the 24-year-old shot to death in his West Baltimore apartment.
Baltimore had the highest homicide rate among major U.S. cities last year: 56 killings per 100,000 people.
Within days of Smith’s death, police arrested Gibson, who lived a mile away, and charged him with murder. He appeared in Baltimore Circuit Court Tuesday wearing a shirt and tie. The prosecutor pointed across the courtroom, calling him the killer.
“Sadly enough, the victim and the defendant actually knew each other,” Assistant State’s Attorney Adam Chaudry told the jury.
Neither prosecutors nor police have offered a motive for the killing.
Dionay Smith had three toddlers, worked two jobs and volunteered at the Kids Safe Zone in West Baltimore — a haven for neighborhood children to play.
In brief opening statements Tuesday, Chaudry said he will present jurors with surveillance video and witnesses linking Gibson to the crime.
Assistant Public Defender Paula Cline urged jurors to take notice of the holes in the case.
“Look at what is absent from the evidence,” she said. “There was no gun of any sort recovered… No one came forward and stated that they heard a gunshot.”
She said Dionay Smith was found with his pants pockets turned out. Detectives tested the pockets and found DNA evidence of two unknown men, she said.
Police have released surveillance video of two men entering the building on Argyle Avenue in Upton where Dionay Smith lived. One appears to be carrying a gun.
No one else has been charged in the killing.
“I would caution you,” Cline told the jury. “Things are not always what they seem.”
Chief T.J. Smith watched from the fourth row in the gallery, beside his family and fellow officers. In the days after his brother’s killing, he spoke out about his shock and grief.
It’s his job to tell the city about the latest crimes and victims. But that day in July 2017, the name on his cellphone was familiar.
“I've made more than my share of death notifications over the course of my career, but now, it was personal,” he wrote in a widely shared Facebook post. “I arrived and shared the terrible news. A coward with a gun, entered my brother's apartment and shot and killed him.”
His younger brother had become Baltimore’s 173rd homicide of 2017.
“To many, he will be #173, but to me and my family, he's Dion, a brother, a son, a father, a friend, a nephew, and a kind soul,” Smith wrote. “Now, the questions that I'm so often asked at the podium, were the same questions I was asking; Why? Who?”