Suspects in killings may soon be on trial

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By Damon Lawrence

While trials are often postponed in Roane County Criminal Court, Assistant District Attorney General Bill Reedy is optimistic three high-profile defendants charged in area deaths could face a jury as scheduled in the upcoming term.


“Any of them could go to trial and any of them could fall through,” Reedy said. “There’s just no way to predict that.”

Eric Gallaher is charged with voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault-bodily injury in the death of David Harvey.

His trial is scheduled for April 1.

Shawn Smoot is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Brooke Nicole Morris.

Smoot is scheduled to stand trial on March 25.

Ralph O’Neal is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ronnie Dean Cofer.

O’Neal’s trial is set for April 9.

“We’ll have our evidence ready to go,” Reedy said. “It’s just a question of whether or not the other side is ready.”

Gallaher is represented by Harriman attorney Donice Butler. She said she’s ready to move forward as scheduled.

“I met with the DA, and neither side wants it postponed, so unless something unforeseen happens it should go to trial as scheduled,” she said.

Harvey was found dead outside the Grill & Pub north of Harriman on July 23, 2011. According to an arrest warrant filed in the case, Gallaher punched Harvey after a minor fender bender in the parking lot.

“There was a minor abrasion on his forehead and a larger injury to the back of his head,” Roane County Sheriff’s Office Detective A.E. Wolff reported about Harvey’s body. “His pants pockets appeared to be part-way pulled out.”

Gallaher was originally charged with reckless homicide. His current charges are the result of a grand jury indictment from 2012.

“I believe he’s innocent,” Butler said. “If the jury listens to the proof, I think they will find that it was merely a scuffle in the parking lot and the cause of death cannot be ascertained definitively as to being caused by Mr. Gallaher.”

The criminal court term in Roane County starts this week and runs through April.

“At this point, they’re all on for trial,” Reedy said of the cases against Gallaher, Smoot and O’Neal.

“So many things can happen between now and then. It’s just hard to know for sure if they’re all going to go or not.”

Smoot and O’Neal are represented by Knoxville attorney Bob Vogel.

“We’re still working,” Vogel said. “On both cases there’s a lot to do, but our goal is to be ready for the trial dates as they’re set.”

Morris’ body was found at the intersection of Blair Road and Old Blair Road in October 2011. District Attorney General Russell Johnson said she had been shot.

Smoot was indicted by the grand jury in June 2012.

Cofer’s body was reportedly discovered in a ditch on Clax Gap Road in August 2007. Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton said Cofer had been shot.

The grand jury indicted O’Neal in June 2009. His case has been set for trial multiple times only to be postponed.

Vogel has called the state’s case against O’Neal weak and he’s said the police did a lot of things wrong in the Smoot case.