On Saturday, October 9, Christian A. Smith (23) was arrested for the murder of his stepfather, Dennis McKenzie (43), after Smith aired his homophobic objections to one of McKenzie’s LGBTQ+ houseguests.
Smith shot McKenzie three times in the head and body, killing McKenzie at the scene in their New Jersey home in Gloucester County. Smith was temporarily staying at the home of his mother and stepfather when the incident occurred.
One of Smith’s relatives reportedly brought a gay man to a family gathering, which Smith vocally objected to, arguing that their home was “a house of God”. It is understood that Smith used a homophobic slur, which prompted McKenzie to throw a punch at his stepson in the moments leading up to the murder.
Smith responded by taking a Glock 19 gun from the waistband of his trousers and shooting McKenzie three times, in front of his mother and teen relatives.
“This argument that proceeded the murder, it started over an act of bias and an act of bias intimidation where he is using a slur about somebody’s sexual orientation,” said Assistant Prosecutor Dana Anton.
“The stepfather took a swing at Mr Smith and, I believe, maybe superficially hit him,” said Anton, adding that Smith was uninjured in the exchange. “In response to that, Mr Smith took out a Glock 19 that was in his waistband and shot him three times.”
The defence made the claim that the event was an accident, citing that the accused has no prior criminal record of violence and that, after repeatedly shooting McKenzie, he remained at the scene of the crime and disassembled the gun.
“What that suggests to me, Judge, is that this was accidental,” said Smith’s public defender, Katherine Constantine Blinn, “and that in order to prevent any further issues Mr Smith disassembled the gun until police arrived.”
However, this argument did not sway the court.
“The weight of the evidence in the eyes of the court in this matter are very strong,” Judge Mary Beth Kramer. “Even with the argument that this was somehow an accidental discharge, he still had to take a loaded handgun out of his waistband at a family gathering.”
It is understood that Smith’s mother tried to break up the fight before it escalated, but sadly she was unsuccessful. She spoke on behalf of her son in court, making a plea for him to get a pretrial release, but this plea was denied by Judge Kramer.
The judge ruled that Smith be held in jail prior to the trial, identifying him as “a danger to the community”.
Smith awaits trial in Salem County Jail.
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