Detectives foil plot to kill witnesses in EBR murder case

A plot to have three witnesses against a Baton Rouge murder suspect killed was thwarted after investigators listening in on jailhouse phone conversations developed information that led to an arrest Monday, court records show.

The incriminating phone conversations took place between Erick Scott, the accused gunman in the 2011 shooting death of Justice Thompson, and Christopher Smith, who allegedly agreed to kill the witnesses set to testify against Scott.

Smith, 22, 1630 N. 49th St., was booked on counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Baton Rouge police detectives heard Scott, who is in Parish Prison awaiting trial, in an April 8 phone call talking to Smith about a letter Smith had received from a “B. Johnson” but which Scott said he had actually written.

The letter asks “Nino” to get with “Tim” and, in an apparent reference to the witnesses, “step on them.” The handwritten letter says further to “get it done before my court date,” ending with a warning, “Don’t let nobody see this letter.”

Scott instructed Smith during the phone call to destroy the letter after reading it, a warrant for Smith’s arrest says.

“At the end of the same phone call, the accused (Smith) states, ‘Everything’s going to be taken care of. I promise,’ ” homicide Detective Zac Woodring wrote in the warrant.

But Smith did a poor job tearing up the letter. District Attorney Hillar Moore III said investigators were able to piece it back together after finding it in a trash can inside Smith’s residence while executing a search warrant.

“The letter for the most part said, ‘I want you to take out the witnesses,’ ” Moore said.

Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a police spokesman, said investigators began actively monitoring Scott’s phone calls from Parish Prison after learning he might be planning something.

Scott, 23, is awaiting trial in the Thompson shooting as well as a February 2012 shooting in which he has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Kevin “Gus” Johnson, 21. He’s also been charged with two counts attempted second-degree murder from an armed robbery in 2011, records show.

Moore said once they pieced together the letter, prosecutors asked state District Judge Don Johnson to quash a motion from Scott’s attorney for a hearing in which the witnesses against him would be required to be present.

Johnson granted prosecutors’ request, which Moore said was made to ensure the safety of the witnesses.

This is not the first time investigators heard Scott ask friends to confront or kill witnesses in the Thompson case, according to the warrant for Smith.

In one incident, Scott gave friends the witnesses’ names and addresses so they could confront the witnesses. In another, he urged one of his friends to “holler at them hoes,” referring to three female witnesses. The man, who is not identified in the warrant, said he would get a man called “J” to confront and intimidate them.

The witnesses came forward to police with information about Scott’s alleged role in Thompson’s slaying a few days after police arrested Scott on April 5, 2012, in Johnson’s shooting.

Johnson was fatally shot on Feb. 14, 2012, at about 5:45 p.m. while he sat in a vehicle at the stop light at South Choctaw Drive and North Acadian Thruway.

Thompson was shot while sitting in a parked vehicle in the 2000 block of Adams Street on Oct. 16, 2011, and died two days later at a hospital, police have said.

Police have said the shootings of Thompson and Johnson both stemmed from prior altercations the two had with Scott.

The investigation into the phone calls is ongoing and more arrests are expected as police work to identify others Scott asked to kill or intimidate the witnesses, McKneely said.