Friday, January 14, 2000

Devou Park killing sent to grand jury

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The man suspected of killing another man in Devou Park in October told detectives right away the story of the victim's beating death, claiming he overheard it from the killer.

        Thomas Smith later admitted he made up that story, police said. Though he has never confessed to killing James Berte, he appears to know exactly how the man died — knowledge investigators think had to come firsthand.

        The murder case against Mr. Smith, 25, was sent to a grand jury Thursday after Kenton District Judge Frank Trusty agreed there was probable cause to think Mr. Smith did commit the crime.

        Mr. Smith showed up on his own at Covington police headquarters Oct. 28, the day after the body of Mr. Berte, 70, was found in the park, officers testified Thursday. He said then that he'd overheard a conversation during which a man said he hit Mr. Berte in the face with a beer bottle and then beat him severely.

        Then he said something investigators found odd: “Gee, I hope it wasn't my beer bottle.”

        Police said relatives of Mr. Smith told them he hangs out in the park. He admitted he drinks there. A broken 22-ounce Budweiser bottle was found near the body.

        Officers aren't sure exactly what happened between the two men in the popular park, but they think Mr. Smith might have been a hustler who targeted gay men there.

        Mr. Smith was identified by two women involved in a wedding party picture session that day in the park. They said he approached them asking for a cell phone to report an accident. Mr. Berte's car was found wedged between two trees.

        Mr. Smith remained in the Kenton County Jail on Thursday. He is being held without bond.


City bets $10M on covering Fort Washington Way
Experts: Riverfront plan needed
Political pressure blamed for street deception
Teen's essay leads to murder charge
Kroger cover-up puzzles one 'Cosmo' woman
Martin Luther King Day events
Fertilizer spill's estimate growing
Suspect eludes police chase
Tobacco windfall revised
Ethics complaint misfiled
Rose's former bookie acquitted of assault on officer
Scripps to give candidates free TV time
Queen City's moments to shine reflected in book
Cast is risk, strength of 'Angels'
Long-distance friends find love
Love your mother-in-law
Baptists' bill finds gray area
Boater hopes to top 317-mph feat
Boone gets another proposal for mine
Butler County clears brush, tree debris
Butler's new Y, hospital team up
Children Services board vacant
City vacancies key topic at retreat
Corporex boos idea of a procurement law
- Devou Park killing sent to grand jury
Ex-Voinovich aide hired as Taft cabinet official
Hey, Ft. Thomas: Speak up on schools
I-75 study receives funding OK
Lebanon again part of conference it co-founded
Levy for street repairs on Mount Healthy ballot
Ludlow citizens demand cease-fire
Man will serve at least 18 years for murder
Parents' workshop covers topics on disability
Plant called polluter
Student body makes best of makeover
Warren jail is full again
Water break leaves bus-size crater in street
Woman retains her 'right to gripe'