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Former cop pleads to murder, accepts life sentence

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Donald Skinner looked at the man who murdered his son and called him "a piece of compost," "scum," "a lowlife," "gutless," "coward," who deserved to die.

"His lust ... and greed for money, gave him a front-row seat in hell, where he will burn forever," Skinner said.

Charles Alan Smith, a 51-year-old former cop, didn't look at the father, mother and son of the man he murdered, as they stood up, one after another, and told the judge they felt he was unredeemable, unforgivable, and completely worthless.

Smith sat there, his hands shackled to his waist, on the fourth floor of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Clayton County Superior Court, and accepted his guilt and sentence.

"How do you plead?" Judge Geronda V. Carter asked him Thursday afternoon.

"Guilty," he said, and the judge said, "Sir, you are sentenced to life in prison."

Smith killed Donald Ray Skinner early on the morning of June 9, 2007. He waited in the dark, in some bushes, as Skinner delivered a tractor trailer load of fresh fish to a Forest Park depot. Smith then shot the 49-year-old man four times.

A police officer at the Atlanta State Farmers Market, Smith was involved in a romantic relationship with Donald Ray Skinner's wife, 50-year-old Carolyn Allene Skinner.

Smith married the woman in an unofficial ceremony in November 2006, though she was already married, at the time, to Donald Ray Skinner, a Stockbridge truck driver.

Under Allene Skinner's influence, Smith said, he murdered her husband.

According to police and prosecutors, Allene Skinner was trying to get Donald Ray Skinner's $90,000 life insurance policy. She allegedly manipulated Smith and conspired with him, to get him to ambush and murder her husband. She maintains her innocence, though.

Her in-laws say she is a devil, evil, and a liar, but her attorney said she is only guilty of attracting men.

Allene Skinner is facing charges of murder and conspiracy to murder in Clayton County, and could stand trial later this summer.

Smith's attorney, Joe Roberto, blamed Allene Skinner, saying Smith wouldn't have killed, if it hadn't been for her. "She spun him," Roberto said. "She used him, and she spat him out."

Roberto pushed for leniency and the possibility of parole in the afternoon hearing. Pleading guilty to malice murder and accepting a life sentence, Smith will be eligible for parole in 30 years.

"If he lives into his 80s," Roberto said, "he should get parole ... He is not an ordinary murderer. This is someone who got his head and heart spun around by a woman."

Smith has been described, by those who knew him, as a "black sheep" and a life-long failure, who desperately tried, and disastrously failed, to redeem himself. He seemed, during the plea hearing, to be attempting, perhaps for the last time, to make things right.

When arrested, Smith reportedly told police, "I did it, and now I'm here to pay the piper and go on down the road." On Thursday, he stood up in the courtroom, and turned around to face the family.

"I just want to say I'm sorry," he said. "I don't know what to do."

His words left the Skinner family unmoved.

Outside the courtroom, Donald Ray Skinner's mother, Carol Skinner, said,

"I lost just about every bit of my faith when Donnie Ray died. He'll get no forgiveness from me."