Two sides in shooting shout outside hearing

By Ed Brock

A press conference turned into a shouting match between friends of a security guard accused of murder and family members of the teen-ager she is accused of shooting.

Kathryn Smith, 29, was in court Thursday for a scheduled preliminary hearing but the hearing was postponed so a court-appointed lawyer could be assigned to Smith's case.

Smith is charged with murder and possession of a handgun without a permit in connection with the June 16 shooting death of 16-year-old Courtney Wright of College Park who was driving Smith's stolen car.

Stepping off the bus on her way to work at the Wayfield Foods grocery store on Riverdale Road outside Riverdale, Smith saw the car in the parking lot of an auto parts store across the street and went to confront Wright who was driving the car, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said previously.

Smith later told police that Wright tried to run her down so she pulled her .38 caliber handgun and fired into the car. Investigators did not consider her story to be plausible based on the evidence, Turner said.

After Smith was taken back to her cell her domestic partner, Shanda Burch-Smith, held a press conference in front of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center to defend the woman with whom she has lived for six years and whom she calls her wife.

"She's not the monster some people are trying to portray her as," Burch-Smith said.

Burch-Smith said Smith is a kind person who, despite her size, was not the kind of person to physically grab Wright as some people have suggested.

At that point Wright's aunt and uncle, Livia Moore-Tolden and Vincent Moore of Atlanta, interrupted the press conference and began shouting at Burch-Smith.

"So he should have lost his life, so he should have lost his life?" Moore-Tolden shouted.

"She should have picked up the cell phone and called the police," Moore said.

Burch-Smith said prior to the confrontation that Smith did not want to get Wright in trouble with police but just wanted the car back that the couple had bought together and which was necessary for their livelihood. She also said that Smith did not intend to shoot Wright.

Wright's aunt and uncle were not convinced by the argument.

"Is that how she was trying to keep him out of trouble, by shooting him in the back of the head?" Moore said. "She shot him in the back of the head at point blank range. How is that an accident?"

Moore-Tolden said she and the rest of Wright's family would only get to see him once more, at Wright's funeral scheduled for this Friday at 2 p.m. Burch-Smith and the other friends would get to see Smith over and over, she said.

Prior to the hearing, Burch-Smith said she met Smith, in 1999. Mutual friends introduced them and Burch-Smith soon fell in love.

"She had such a friendly aura about her," Burch-Smith said. "You could see she was a giving person, she was a big old teddy bear."

She described Smith, or "K.C." as she was known to her friends, as a very open, honest person who loved children, adding that they had hoped to have children some day. Smith was a native of San Francisco who had worked in the Atlanta area as a security guard for 13.

She was working for East Coast Protective Services at the time of the shooting and it was the first time she was required to carry a weapon, Burch-Smith said. She also said that Smith did have a permit for the weapon but had not yet received the card, and she brought the paperwork for the permit with her to court on Thursday.

Burch-Smith also said that the security company had fired Smith after her arrest. A call to East Coast Protective Services was not returned in time for this article.

Moore-Tolden said that her nephew, while he was no angel, was "a pretty good kid." At Vanniker High School in Fulton County where he was a student Wright was the class clown who played football and wanted to be a professional football player when he grew up, Moore-Tolden said.

She said Wright didn't steal Smith's car.

"We know he didn't, we saw the surveillance picture," Moore-Tolden said.

She was referring to a video from the convenience store at which the car was parked when it was stolen. The video shows two young suspects getting into the car and driving off, East Point Police Maj. Patricia Boyce said.

Smith will be back in court on July 9 for a bond hearing, and Burch-Smith said she feels certain Smith will get bond.