CROWN POINT | A Highland man was sentenced Friday to 55 years in prison in the shooting death of his girlfriend after the couple returned home from a night of drinking last year.
Jurors convicted Douglas Smith, 27, of murder Feb. 14 in the shooting death of Jacqueline Williams, 28. Jurors chose to convict Smith even though they had the option of finding him guilty of lesser charges that took into account the shooting occurred during "sudden heat," Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez said.
Vasquez said the trial indicated the killing was yet another case of "but for": If not for the use of alcohol and the presence of a weapon, Williams may not have been dead and Smith in court.
Vasquez also said there were other indicators the tragedy involved more than alcohol.
The judge cited numerous character failures on the part of Smith, including not getting control of his life or his drinking, fleeing the state and setting up his mother to find Williams' body.
In addressing the court, Smith denied any intent to hurt Williams.
"I loved Jacqueline very much," Smith said. "I never intended to hurt her."
Speaking clearly, he acknowledged the devastation to both families and, while wiping a tear, his family's own great love for Williams.
Members of each family filled the courtroom.
Before sentencing, Smith's mother, overcome with weeping, sought to convince the court her son was not a monster.
Williams' equally grief-stricken mother charged Smith with sentencing her beautiful only daughter to death.
Trial testimony had indicated the couple had a volatile relationship before Williams was killed Jan. 14, 2012, in their Highland duplex.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sabrina Haney had argued the evidence showed the shooting was no accident and couldn't have happened as Smith testified. Williams' head wound showed she was struck in the left eye by the bullet, which traveled from front to back with such force it went through the floor under her head.
Defense attorney William Padula, of Munster, had argued strongly against murder as the verdict, citing the couple's troubled relationship and chronic excessive drinking.