AG files charges in 1984 murder case

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s new Criminal Justice Division has filed first-degree murder charges on a 1984 cold case that happened at a lumberyard in Idabel.

According to documents filed in McCurtain County, Ernest Lewis is accused of shooting and killing Johnny Smith on June 28, 1984, during their shift at the K.C.S. Lumber Company.

The probable cause affidavit says blood spatter was collected form a frontend loader bucket and rocks near Smith’s body, during the initial investigation in 1984. At the time, Investigators also collected a bullet casing that matched a gun owned by Lewis’ mother.

Lewis was originally charged for the murder in 1985. However, the case was dismissed because of lack of evidence. With evidence and leads exhausted, the case went cold.

In 2011, Smith’s body was exhumed and samples from his remains were tested against blood collected from the original crime scene. The samples from the crime scene matched the DNA taken from the exhumed body, with the chances of another individual possessing the same DNA being one in 388,000.

The samples were analyzed and identified by forensic experts with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (OSBI). Additionally, agents with the OSBI and District 17 District Attorney Mark Matloff’s office assisted in the investigation to move the case forward.

Attorney General Hunter applauded the efforts of agents and attorneys in his office, the OSBI and District Attorney Matloff. He said the Criminal Justice Division is committed to working seamlessly with state, county, municipal and federal law enforcement partners.

“The Criminal Justice Division was created to handle the most challenging cases in the state,” Attorney General Hunter said. “This case in particular daunted investigators and prosecutors alike. But ultimately their dedication and persistence solved the case.”

All defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

Case Background

According to the affidavit, on the day of the murder and seconds after the gunshot, four witnesses said an individual erratically drove a frontend loader belonging to the lumber company past them.

The witnesses said several minutes later, a truck drove past them in the opposite direction and out of the front gate of the lumberyard. Three of the witnesses recognized the driver of both vehicles as Lewis.

Officials at the lumber company said Lewis left work abruptly after claiming a family emergency shortly before Smith’s body was found.