For the first time since Flint Hill resident Randy Smoot was charged with murder in the death of Jonas “Jay” Alther, the community heard the whole story of what happened the night of October 19, 2017, and the morning after.
Aaron Dodson, the only eyewitness to the confrontation between the two men, took the stand just after lunch Wednesday, the first day of the trial.
Smoot has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff walked Dodson through the events of that night minute by minute. Dodson, 20, who had worked for Smoot for a month and a half, testified that as they worked during the day, Smoot drank two six-packs of beer. That evening Dodson drove Smoot, in Smoot’s truck, to the Headmaster’s Pub in Sperryville, where Smoot continued to drink, he said.
Sometime before 11 p.m., Dodson testified they left the pub. On the way back to Smoot’s house, he said, Dodson drove through Washington to take Fodderstack Road back to Flint Hill in an effort to avoid law enforcement.
But Smoot insisted they instead turn “up the hollow” onto Harris Hollow Road. Shortly thereafter, they encountered Alther parking his own truck in the driveway of his home. A confrontation between Smoot and Alther quickly escalated, the testimony continued. Dodson described Alther carrying a large flashlight against his right shoulder, the light shining in Smoot’s eyes.
With the two men screaming at each other face to face, Alther looked like he was going for a gun in his waistband, according to the witness.
“Do you think I’m scared of your gun?” Smoot reportedly said.
Alther then swung the flashlight from his shoulder and hit Smoot’s collarbone, said Dodson. Smoot slapped Alther’s face, then, according to the testimony, Smoot also landed two blows, one an uppercut to Alther’s jaw.
“Mr. Alther fell back like a tree and hit his head on the pavement,” said Dodson. “I heard a thud. Mr. Alther’s head bounced.” Alther was unconscious.
Dodson told the court that he was frightened and started walking up Harris Hollow Road to go to a friend’s house when Smoot ordered him to come back and help with Alther. Dodson said he refused at first, but went back. He and Smoot first loaded Alther into the bed of his own truck, then moved him into the cab. Alther was breathing but unresponsive.
“I saw blood clots on the back of his head,” said Dodson.
Smoot tried several times to make a phone call. “I gotta turn myself in,” he told Dodson. But instead of immediately driving to the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office, Dodson drove Smoot home.
There, according to Sheriff Connie Compton in her report filed the next day, Smoot called the RCSO non-emergency line to ask the department to send someone to Alther’s house to make sure he was all right.
Goff played a recording of that call for the jury. Later he also played a recording of an interview with Smoot the morning of October 20 in which he told RCSO investigator Jim Jones and Compton a story contradicting the facts as related by Dodson.
Smoot, 48, was charged last October with aggravated malicious wounding after he allegedly assaulted Alther. Hours later, after Alther succumbed to his injuries, Smoot was charged with first degree murder. Later the charge was amended to second-degree murder, which under Virginia code is punishable by not less than five nor more than 40 years in prison.