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Confessed killer wants to plead guilty, lawyers can't agree on terms

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Charles Alan Smith, a 49-year-old former cop and confessed killer, is ready to plead guilty to the murder of his girlfriend's husband.

Lawyers, however, are waiting to see who blinks first in plea deal negotiations.

Smith was indicted by a Clayton County grand jury last week, on charges relating to the June 9 ambush and shooting of Donald Ray Skinner. The 49-year-old truck driver was shot four times, before the sun came up, and allegedly looked at his killer, in his final moments, and asked, "Why?"

Police and prosecutors say Skinner's murder was motivated by lust, greed and fantasy. They argue that Skinner's wife, 50-year-old Carolyn Allene Skinner, was having an affair with Smith, and the two conspired to murder Donald Skinner.

Allene Skinner, police and prosecutors say, had an on-and-off relationship with her husband, and conspired to kill him for his life insurance policy. She allegedly convinced Smith to carry out her plan.

The woman allegedly told Smith, a military veteran and officer with the Atlanta State Farmers Market Police, an elaborate story about how she was an undercover agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency, and how her husband was endangering her life.

It is not clear why Smith believed his girlfriend's story, though the Clayton County Police detective, his defense attorney, and his former police department boss, all say he was emotionally unstable and "all twisted around" by Allene Skinner, and was following her wishes.

Allene Skinner and Smith were apparently married in an informal ceremony, and Smith wrote her a number of letters, later, saying he would do anything to "make the relationship work."

Smith told police that was why he hid outside a warehouse, early on June 9, holding his .40-caliber, state-issued handgun, and waited for Donald Skinner to deliver a truck load of fresh fish. When Skinner arrived, according to police, Smith shot him, chased him, and shot him again.

Skinner was shot four times with Smith's weapon -- once in the left hand, once in the thigh, once in his liver and once in his right eye. He died in the parking lot.

When arrested, Smith confessed to the crime, and told police about his relationship with Allene Skinner, about her stories, and about the plan to kill her husband. She said nothing when arrested.

The two were indicted Wednesday on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and aggravated assault. Smith was additionally charged with the possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime, and four counts of violating his officer's oath to uphold the law.

Smith's attorney, Joe Roberto, said the 49-year-old is ready to plead guilty. Roberto wants him to plead to reduced charges of manslaughter, however, in exchange for his testimony against Allene Skinner.

Prosecutor John Turner said he won't offer Smith any sentence less than life in prison.

A life sentence is essentially the same sentence Smith would get if he was found guilty by a jury, Roberto said. If Smith accepts the offered plea, he could be eligible for parole sooner, but there are no guarantees.

Roberto argues that Smith, though guilty, ought to be given some grace because of his service in the United States Army, because he's a good person who tried to help his community, and because he was, allegedly, under the sway of Allene Skinner.

Turner argues that Smith committed the murder, and ought to "come to Jesus" and plead guilty, and accept a life sentence.

Lawyers Turner and Roberto have had an aggressive and confrontational relationship.

Allene Skinner's attorney, Malcolm Wells, could not be reached for comment, Thursday, but has previously questioned his client's connection to the killing. He suggested Smith, who pulled the trigger, is the only one responsible for the murder.

Allene Skinner is unlikely to plead guilty, since the case against her will be harder to prove. The case against Allene Skinner will largely depend on Smith's confession, evidence of the affair, her unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation, and her hurry to apply for her husband's life insurance benefits.

Prosecutor John Turner maintains, however, that both Smith and Allene Skinner are responsible.

The court date for Smith and Allene Skinner has not yet been set.