Witnesses testify in ‘Witchcraft’ murder trial in Pensacola

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — UPDATE (4:51 p.m.): Witness testimony continues in Donald Hartung’s murder trial. As of about 4:30 p.m., the state had called a second crime scene technician that took photos of the Smith family murder scene back in 2015. 
The tech with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office identified several areas with suspected blood in the kitchen and around the house on Deerfield Drive. Witness testimony started at about 10 a.m. The state has now called five witnesses. 


UPDATE (2:00 p.m.): The trial of Donald Hartung resumed about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday after a lunch break. The state called witness Christine Rollins, who was an Escambia County Sheriff’s Office crime scene technician at the time of the murders. Rollins gave her account of the Deerfield Drive home in 2015. She said there were two cars parked in the driveway and four QVC packages on the front porch. Bonnie Smith was said to have a “QVC addiction,” according to prosecutors. Rollins gave the jury descriptions of several photographs of the home, including photos of the crime scene. The photos showed the victims’ bodies covered in clothes, which appeared to be an attempt to hide the bloody homicide. Several other photos showed the bodies covered in blood. One of the brothers’ bodies was found on the ground and the other was found on a love seat. Bonnie Smith was found face down, covered in blankets, rugs and clothes on the floor of John’s room. Blood covered the home’s hallway and furniture, according to Rollins. Paper towels allegedly used to clean up the crime scene were found in a trash can inside the home. 


UPDATE (11:22 a.m.) The state has started questioning Richard Smith’s former supervisor Hal McCord with the Department of Homeland Security. McCord stated Richard did not show up to work on Thursday, July 30, 2015. McCord testified that it was unusual for Richard to not show up for work. McCord went to Richard’s house on July 31, 2015, to check on him. He said he was afraid Richard had a medical emergency. McCord said he tried several times to ring a doorbell at the home but no one ever answered. He called law enforcement. “I knew something was wrong when the EMS arrived and they all looked like they had seen a ghost,” McCord said. “I knew there was a problem. That was clear.” McCord gave deputies Hartung’s information. When Hartung arrived, McCord said they didn’t talk. 


UPDATE (10:10 a.m.): The state has called its first witness in the Hartung trial. Andrew Smith, a former Escambia County Sheriff’s Office deputy, was first to respond to the Smith home on Deerfield Drive on July 31, 2015. He contacted Hartung, who appeared to be calm and relaxed, to get permission to enter the home. 

Andrew Smith testified when he entered the home, he smelled a foul odor that smelled like a dead body. He then saw blood spatter. He first found Hartung’s brothers, RT and John in a living room area covered in piles of clothes. He later found Bonnie in a bedroom. All three were dead when he arrived. 


UPDATE (9:55 a.m.): Hartung’s defense attorney told the jury that the prosecution’s opening arguments and case are built on DNA evidence. However, the defense says it’s obvious that Hartung’s DNA would be at the house on Deerfield Drive because he frequently visited. Hartung visited every Tuesday night and cooked his family dinner. The defense says there is no evidence to directly link Hartung to the murder and at the end of the trial, the evidence will show there is no answer to who the murderer is. 


UPDATE: (9:38 a.m.): Donald Hartung did not live with his mother and two brothers at the time.

He had worked as a security guard at Sacred Heart Hospital at the time. As a routine, he went to his mother’s home on Tuesday’s to cook dinner. On Tuesday, July 28, 2015, Hartung went to the home and cooked dinner according to the state. The state says after the family ate, Hartung beat his brother John in the head with a hammer and slashed his throat. The state says Hartung then did the same to his mother. Bonnie was hit in the head 8 times.

When Hartung’s brother Richard got home, Hartung shot him in the ear. Ultimately, the state says Hartung slit his brother Richard’s throat. We are supposed to hear testimony from neighbors. A neighbor says Hartung left the house during twilight according to the state.

The state says on Friday, July 31, 2015, Richard’s work supervisor went out to his home because he had not shown up for work. The supervisor called the sheriff’s office soon after.


UPDATE (9:30 a.m.): The jury trial in the case of Donald Hartung has begun at the Escambia County courthouse. State prosecutors have started their opening statements, alleging Hartung killed his mother Bonnie Smith, and brothers RT Smith and John Smith in 2015.

The state alleges Hartung beat his mom, Bonnie, 78, and John Smith, 47, in the head with a hammer and slit their throats. Prosecutors say Hartung shot RT Smith, 49, in the head and slit his throat. The state says the evidence in the case will prove that Hartung’s alleged killings were motivated by money. Bonnie Smith had intentionally left Hartung out of her will. The only way Hartung would get an inheritance is if all three of them were killed, according to the state.

Prosecutors plan to share with the jury photographs of the killings.


Opening statements are set to begin this morning in the Donald Hartung trial around 9am CST.

Hartung is accused of killing his mother and two half-brothers in 2015. The bodies of Bonnie Smith, John, and R.T. were found inside their on on Deerfield Drive in Pensacola in 2015. At the time of the murders, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan initially believed the crime was motivated by witchcraft. Investigators have since debunked that claim. Family members believe Hartung’s motive was money.

You can read more about the case here. You can also watch the trial on our website, WKRG.com and on Facebook.

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