- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A college football player is no longer charged with murder in the death of a 66-year-old Oregon man three months ago.

A grand jury decided to instead indict Willamette University receiver Beau Smith on a charge of first-degree manslaughter. The 22-year-old pleaded not guilty Friday at a court appearance in Salem that was delayed because of a suspicious backpack near the courthouse that turned out to be harmless.

Police arrested the senior chemistry major Nov. 12 about a half-mile from where Michael Hampshire’s body was found at 3:40 a.m. An autopsy showed Hampshire died of blunt-force injuries to the head, and Smith was initially charged with murder.

Defense attorney Walter Todd says the reduced charge is appropriate because his client did not intentionally cause Hampshire’s death. “But it’s still a very serious charge, and it’s a long ways from resolution,” he said.

Todd and prosecutor Doug Hanson have not disclosed how the two strangers met, and the authorities have yet to release police reports. Todd said his client saw at least part of the movie “Interstellar” on the night of the incident and was walking to his off-campus home when he got into an early morning altercation on the street. He said there was no weapon.

Judge Vance Day set bail Friday at $250,000, and Todd said in an interview that his client would likely post the required $25,000 next week. The 22-year-old Smith is from Northern California, but he must remain in Salem when he leaves jail. A Willamette chemistry professor, Sarah Kirk, has agreed to let him stay with her and her husband.

Hanson had asked the judge to set bail at $1 million to ensure Smith does not flee and for the safety of the community. He read a statement from Hampshire’s wife, Julie, in which she said “the ripple effect of this tragic death has neighbors feeling insecure in their own neighborhood.”

Todd countered that Smith has no passport, no prior arrests and no history of violence. “Obviously this is an aberration in his life,” he said.

Toxicology tests have been completed, but neither side would divulge the results. Both attorneys, however, alluded to the use of alcohol or drugs on Nov. 12.

Day said Smith must submit to random urinalysis tests if he leaves jail and is not allowed in bars or taverns.

Smith had been on track to graduate this spring from Willamette, a small private university about 50 miles south of Portland. Smith caught 25 passes and scored three touchdowns in the team’s first eight games. He went to jail days before his final game.


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