IM this article to a friend!

September 24, 2004

Murder suspect acquitted

From: Corvallis Gazette Times, OR - Sep 24, 2004

By The Associated Press

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A man has been acquitted for the second time in a murder case stemming from the death of his ex-girlfriend's former roommate.

An eight-man, four-woman jury found Christopher Neil Ladner, 29, innocent of first-degree murder with premeditation in the shooting and stabbing of Alex Smith, 19.

Ladner grabbed his lawyer's hand when the verdict was announced, then returned to jail for at least 10 months on an unrelated burglary and assault conviction.

His former girlfriend, Kimber Douglas, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2002 and was sentenced to 8½ years in prison, was the main witness.

Smith was found dead in his apartment near the Vancouver Mall on Feb. 4, 2000, a few months after Douglas moved out. Police said the investigation was stalled for 11 months until she confessed to being involved in the killing .

Douglas, now 24 or 25, said Smith had kicked her out of the apartment and taken $250 she intended for rent.

She said she and Ladner, whom she met while both were students at the Washington State School for the Deaf, planned to scare Smith into giving them money when they took two loaded guns and a knife to his apartment.

Douglas testified that Smith resisted and was killed by Ladner. A former cellmate of Ladner at the Twin Rivers Correctional Center in Monroe testified that Ladner admitted killing Smith.

The jury, however, was concerned about the lack of fingerprints, hair, fibers or other physical signs that Ladner had been in Smith's apartment.

Copyright © 2004 • Lee Enterprises