Grand jury returns new indictment in 2015 John Exum Parkway murder

Becky Campbell • Updated Mar 13, 2018 at 5:31 PM

A Washington County grand jury returned a true bill indictment on first-degree murder and related charges that stem from a vehicle’s passenger being killed by a man trying to get a ride while standing in the street.

The indictment against Denver Christian Smith, 24, includes charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree murder, felony first-degree murder as an alternative charge, aggravated assault, attempted carjacking, unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and aggravated criminal trespassing.

The fatal shooting happened Nov. 13, 2015, and began with Smith allegedly shooting a woman who had been living with his father and then shooting at a passing vehicle at the intersection of John Exum Parkway and West Market Street while trying to force someone to pull over for him. That shot hit and killed 19-year-old Tiaria Miller, of Johnson City. She was the passenger in a car driven by her friend, Chelsea Scott.

Two of the charges in the indictment — attempted carjacking and aggravated criminal trespassing — were not included in the original warrant, but prosecutors said there is sufficient evidence in the case file to support the charges. The attempted carjacking occurred when Smith tried unsuccessfully to get Scott to pull over by pointing a gun at her. The trespassing charge happened after the shooting when Smith allegedly broke a nearby apartment window and told the occupant he was with the CIA and had been shot.

When police arrived, he also told them he had been shot and was transported to Johnson City Medical Center by Washington County/Johnson City EMS; however, Smith did not suffer any injuries that night and was later booked into the Washington County Detention Center. But Smith didn’t stay in state custody long. Before his case could proceed to a preliminary hearing in General Sessions Court, he was indicted in a federal methamphetamine case.

Those federal charges dated back to February 2011 and extend through July 2014. Smith pleaded guilty to one count of the federal indictment and was sentenced to five years in federal prison. That sentence was ordered to be consecutive to any sentence he receives in the murder case.

After the federal case was resolved, state prosecutors resumed proceedings in the murder case. Smith had a preliminary hearing in January and the case was bound over to a grand jury. He is scheduled to be arraigned in April in Criminal Court.

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