Guadalupe Montejano is charged with killing a female friend, Tamie Clark-Acevedo, and stuffing her body inside his apartment closet.
However, his attorney believes police got the wrong suspect, and on Friday, that lawyer questioned a Pasco woman about alleged statements that she committed the murder.
Elizabeth A. Smith denied telling people she killed Clark-Acevedo and claimed she was behind bars when it happened.
Asked if she recalled telling a bartender that she did it, Smith initially said “yes,” then changed her answer to “no.”
“That’s not what I said, and I didn’t know she had been murdered yet. I got out of jail and said, ‘Someone beat me to the chase.’ I didn’t know she was really dead,” Smith said. “I don’t know (why). I just say stupid sh--, stupid stuff. I just say stupid little comments, it’s something I did.”
Smith is expected to be a witness in Montejano’s first-degree murder trial, starting June 24 in Franklin County Superior Court.
Montejano’s defense lawyer Shelley Ajax wanted to talk to Smith for months to determine if she can use a third-party perpetrator defense at trial. Smith previously refused to speak to the defense and couldn’t be found when prosecutors tried to schedule an interview.
So on March 25, authorities arrested her on a material witness warrant and held her in the Franklin County jail on $3,000 bail until a deposition could be scheduled.
A deposition rarely is open to the public unless it has been difficult to serve a subpoena on the witness.
A court reporter and videographer recorded Friday’s deposition in a courtroom while Ajax and Prosecutor Shawn Sant questioned Smith. If Smith doesn’t show up for the trial, the video can be played for jurors.
Montejano, 49, was in court for the deposition.
Smith’s attorney, Craig Stilwill, argued that the defense is trying to show Smith committed the murder and that could open her up to prosecution depending on her statements. Even though his client had not been charged with Clark-Acevedo’s death, the deposition should be treated like a criminal case in which she has a right to remain silent and can’t be forced to answer questions about herself, he said.
Judge Carrie Runge said the “important distinction is if she had been charged,” and told Stilwill she was ordering Smith to at least answer background information and see where that goes.
Stilwill eventually withdrew his objection after Smith indicated to him that she would cooperate with the questioning. Smith was released from jail after the hearing Friday.
Police found Clark-Acevedo’s body on Jan. 3, 2014, in Montejano’s apartment. She was covered by a sleeping bag. It is not known how long she had been dead.
The 46-year-old woman suffered severe head wounds and her throat had a deep cut made by a sharp object, court documents said.
Montejano allegedly told at least one person at the apartment complex, “Tammy [sic] is dead. I killed Tammy,” documents said. The witness claims he called police.
Neighbors reported hearing screams and items breaking inside the apartment earlier that day.
Clark-Acevedo and Montejano were acquaintances, and she was staying with him until she could afford to find a place of her own.
Smith said she met Clark-Acevedo and Montejano at different times in 2013 while she was drinking and playing pool. She said the two appeared to be friends, though she knew Montejano said she owed him money.
Smith, whose street name is “Pebbles,” said the only conflict she had with the victim was when Clark-Acevedo’s dog bit Smith on the ankle. Smith said she kicked the dog, named Teddy, and then realized he did it because he was scared, and after that they had no more problems.
The last time she saw Clark-Acevedo was during a karaoke night in November or December 2013, she said.
Smith said she was in Montejano’s apartment only one time, but wouldn’t answer why. She later said she spent less than five minutes in the apartment, and believed there may have been people sleeping in the dark, but she just wanted to use the bathroom.
Smith insisted she was in jail when Clark-Acevedo was killed and didn’t hear about it until after her release. She said she was locked up from Dec. 29, 2013, to Jan. 2, 2014.
She choked up as she talked about Clark-Acevedo, saying it was better not to know all of the details because it was hard to actually know someone who’d been killed.
Smith heard from a bartender at the tavern and Montejano that some believed she was involved in the death, she said. “Trust me, that is an ugly thing to hear,” she said.
She said she plans to be available for the trial because, “I think that’s going to help me get over this too.”
Montejano now has a second felony case for alleged destructive behavior while locked up in the county jail. That trial for first-degree malicious mischief also is set for June 24.
He was caught breaking the window to his cell Feb. 5, according to court documents. Corrections officers also discovered he had pulled the metal desk from the wall and used it to beat the inside of the cell door.
Montejano was put in a padded holding cell, which he also damaged, wrote Deputy Darrell Chambers. The damage is estimated at $6,000.
He also is accused of ripping his suicide smock, worth $700, and using the smock’s stuffing to cover the holding cell’s camera.
Last June, jail officials reported that Montejano had been a “major problem” and spent most of his time in a maximum-security isolation cell, after damaging a smoke detector and making a knife from it, smashed a window, destroyed a light fixture, dismantled a faucet and trying to clog up the plumbing in his cell. He was not charged for that vandalism.
Ajax complained her client was being mistreated at the jail, and Montejano in August was one of several Franklin County inmates who filed a federal lawsuit claiming they are routinely subjected to inhumane and barbaric practices.
Montejano’s bail is set at $500,000.