LIMA — Defense attorneys unveiled their “self-defense” strategy Tuesday as the murder trial of Quintel Estelle got underway in Allen County Common Pleas Court.
Estelle, 39, of Lima, is charged with two counts of murder, unclassified felonies with specifications for the use of a firearm, in the May 4, 2019, shooting death of 63-year-old Donald Smith.
Defense attorney Steven Crossmock, in opening statements to jurors Tuesday afternoon, did not dispute that Estelle fired the shots that killed Smith outside a residence at 939 Brice Avenue, but said the evidence will show that the defendant acted in self-defense after being punched by Smith.
“Had Donald Smith not struck Mr. Estelle these events would not have happened,” Crossmock told jurors. “We believe the evidence will overwhelmingly show that it was self-defense and my client is not guilty of murder.”
Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Tony Miller told jurors they would hear Smith’s dying words on a 911 dispatch call that will be played during the trial. Those words, the prosecutor said, were: “I’m dying … I’m dying … I’m dying.”
And it all could have been avoided, he suggested, had Estelle simply walked away on that fateful day. But Miller said the defendant took another course of action, heading off into his residence and returning with a firearm he used to shoot Smith twice in the chest, leaving him dead.
“You will hear from a number of witnesses, including Donald Smith’s family, who watched him die,” Miller told jurors. “I’m confident you will find Mr. Estelle guilty of murder.
The state’s first witness was Adrian Harmon, the now 16-year-old step-son of Estelle. Harmon, in a barely audible voice, testified that he considered Smith a father figure and often referred to him as “dad.”
Harmon testified that he and Estelle had gotten into a verbal confrontation and a “tussle” on the day of Smith’s shooting over some unwashed dishes in the home. Harmon said he called Smith and told him Estelle had “put his hands on me.” The teenager said Smith drove to the family’s Brice Avenue home and confronted Estelle and then “slapped” him. Harmon, fearful of who the situation might escalate, started to walk from the home and down the street “when I heard gunshots,” he testified. Harmon admitted he didn’t see what happened and didn’t see anyone with a gun.
Crossmock attempted to paint the picture of a “strained relationship” between the teenager and Estelle. Harmon admitted Estelle did dish out discipline in the home. Even though the defense attorney, in his opening statements, told jurors that the “evidence will show that Adrian was not being truthful” in his version of the events on that May day, the boy’s testimony did not bear out that prediction.
Police reports show that Estelle fled the scene after the shooting and remained at large until he turned himself in a week after the incident took place.
Testimony in the trial was to resume Wednesday morning.