- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A jury has convicted a man accused in a killing that happened a decade ago outside a Keizer apartment, a case that included the city police department’s longest-ever homicide investigation and a previous hung jury.

Victor Smith, 38, was found guilty Tuesday of murder with a firearm in the death of Phillip Johnson, who was shot to death in July 2004.

Nearly 20 investigators participated in a nine-year search for Johnson’s killer, questioning more than 100 people as part of the longest homicide investigation in the history of the Keizer Police Department. More than 5,000 documents were compiled, and the extensive paperwork sat on a rolling cart next to prosecutors as the verdict was read.

In the rows behind them, several members of Johnson’s family sat in attendance to hear the judgment, along with some of the investigators.

Prosecutors said jealousy was the motive: Johnson had a relationship with a woman, and Smith was in love with her. Smith initially was tried in June, but a mistrial was declared when jurors couldn’t reach a decision.

“Ten years is a long time to wonder if someone will be brought to justice,” police Lt. John Troncoso told the Statesman Journal newspaper (https://is.gd/3zJ5gU ) after Tuesday’s verdict. “This case had multiple suspects right from the start. There were just a lot of people to talk to, and a lot of people didn’t want to talk to us.”

The evidence that led investigators to Smith ultimately came from past interview subjects.

“Over the course of the investigation, there were some people we suspected knew much more, and some of them started to come forward,” Troncoso said. “That’s obviously what got the ball rolling.”

Smith was inside the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution at the time of his 2013 arrest. He was serving time on an unrelated assault charge.

Keizer is a city of 37,000 residents just north of Salem.


Information from: Statesman Journal, https://www.statesmanjournal.com

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