LIMA — Jurors in the murder trial of Clois Ray Adkins deliberated for just 90 minutes Wednesday before finding the Tennessee man guilty of murder in the 2017 beating death of a Lima man.
Adkins, 21, was found guilty of two counts of murder and two counts of felonious assault in the death of Robert “Robby” Smith II, 22, during an altercation on the evening of Sept. 3, 2017. He was immediately sentenced to a mandatory prison term of 15 years to life.
Asked by Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed if he wished to make a statement before his sentence was passed, Adkins replied, “Nope.”
Lucas County Coroner Diane Scala-Barrett testified Wednesday that Smith died as the result of a depressed skull fracture and “severe swelling of the brain” after being struck in the head with “severe force” by a blunt object.
“You can’t survive this type of injury,” Barnett said. “It’s not survivable.”
Testimony showed Smith and Adkins became engaged in an altercation at the intersection of Holmes and Milburn avenues in Lima shortly before 8 p.m. on that September evening. Adkins was armed with a tree limb and struck Smith in the head one time with the limb. Smith was taken to Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center with traumatic head injuries and was pronounced dead the following day.
Defense Attorney Steve Chamberlain maintained throughout the trial that his client acted in self defense.
Jurors, who on Tuesday viewed a cell phone video of the attack, on Wednesday watched a 30-minute jailhouse interview conducted by Lima Police Department Detective Kent Miller with Adkins, during which the defendant admitted striking Smith with the tree limb because he felt threatened.
“I didn’t want to hit him; I didn’t mean to hit him that hard,” Adkins told investigators, insisting he simply intended to protect himself when the incident occurred.
“He (Smith) tried to swing at me,” Adkins told detectives.
Testimony on Tuesday indicated several residents in the area of Holmes and Milburn avenues in Lima were upset because Adkins, known as “Ray” by many in the neighborhood, was allegedly involved in a romantic relationship with an underaged girl.
During his interrogation by detectives, Adkins admitted his involvement with the girl but said she initially had told him she was 18 years of age. He told police that when he learned she was just 15 “I told her I was done with her until she turned 18.”
But several individuals nonetheless had made threatening comments and had taken threatening actions towards Adkins because of his involvement with the girl, he told police. He said resident James Vice, who testified Tuesday that his girlfriend was a friend of the young girl’s mother, had tried to “run me over” with his vehicle.
Adkins said he was at the corner of Holmes and Milburn avenues talking with his father on the phone when Smith, who he did not know, approached him in a threatening manner.
“He (Smith) put his fists up. I swung the limb, but I didn’t mean to swing as hard as I did,” Adkins told detectives.
In their closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, attorneys in the case painted vastly differing pictures for jurors.
“Sometimes things just go wrong,” Chamberlain said. “Robert Smith did not deserve to die. No one deserves to die. But self defense is applicable here as all the burdens (of proof required by law) have been met by the defense.
“Clois Ray Adkins was being harassed by several people that day. He had been called a pedophile, even though there is no evidence he had sex with a child. And Robert Smith had nothing to do with what was happening. He interjected himself into the situation, even though he had no dog in this fight. The question you have to ask is, ‘Was Clois Ray Adkins criminally responsible for his death?’ And when you do that, you can see the evidence is there for self defense.”
Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Juergen Waldick said the defense attorney had failed at every turn to establish a self-defense theory.
“There is not one shred of evidence to indicate that (Adkins) was in fear of great bodily harm or death. He could have walked away at any time,” Waldick said. “This was not self defense under anyone’s definition, and certainly not under the law.”