Beckham County Man Accused In 2008 Murder Found 'Not Guilty'

Wednesday, July 30th 2014, 7:06 pm
By: News 9

A Jury acquitted a Beckham County man accused of Murder.

Gordon Splinter was accused of shooting and killing a man back in 2008. He has spent the last year and a half in jail awaiting his trial. But now, Splinter is free after a jury found him not guilty of the murder.

The jury deliberated for more than 10 and a half hours and finally announced their verdict at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. For the defense team, this acquittal means an innocent, mentally ill man will no longer have to spend any more time in jail.

Gordon Splinter, 36, had deputies escort him as he was led out of the Beckham County courthouse a free man. For him his family, and his defense team, it has been an emotional trying year.

Tony Coleman is Splinter's attorney and represented him at trial.

"And when the words ‘not guilty’ rang out, Gordon immediately broke down into tears, grabbed me, and hugged me and was absolutely speechless," said Coleman.

Splinter was accused of killing 36-year-old Michael Smith outside his home in Erick back on April 29, 2008. Smith’s wife found him on the back porch of their home bleeding. He had been shot and died hours later at the hospital.

Court papers state witnesses claim they saw Splinter near the scene running and that he was carrying a rifle. They also claim his tan minivan had been seen half a block from Smith’s house. One neighbor said they saw Splinter driving that tan minivan at a high rate of speed around the time gunshots were heard in the area, and around the time Smith was shot.

As it turns out, one of the key witnesses, Timothy North, is a convicted felon serving time in prison for robbery.

“The state relied upon heavily the statement of convicted felon Timothy North, who is serving a 25-year sentence for robbery,” said Coleman.

“North claimed to have seen Gordon Splinter on the morning of April 29, 2008 run in front of his truck, from Mr. Smith's home. He did not come forward with any of the versions until 2010, while he was in jail facing the robbery charges. So I think we did a good job convincing jurors Mr. North was shopping for a deal. And when that didn't work, he brought up his alleged knowledge about being present when Mr. Smith was shot.

Splinter always professed his innocence, saying he was just leaving his parents’ house on his way home when Smith was shot.

"They had other leads that they could have and should have followed, none of them were thoroughly investigated," said Coleman.

Splinter was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia years ago and has been undergoing treatment for years. His defense team says that is why he was most likely suspected from the start.

"It was always our position that Gordon Splinter was exploited because of his mental condition,” said Coleman. “He was a person that was convenient he was a local everyone knew he had mental issues and it was so easy for everyone to accept that the ‘crazy person’ did it.”

News 9 did speak with the Beckham County District Attorney by phone this afternoon. He simply said "the jury has spoken".

One of Splinter’s other attorneys on the case was Sen. Tony Ivester. Splinter’s mother has worked for Ivester’s law firm for more than 30 years. Ivester says he is not running for another term as senator, but does plan to run for the DA seat, since the current DA Dennis Smith is has decided not to seek another term.