Friday, September 30, 2005

 

Pastor tells judge, 'I'm set up' by wife, Fort Pierce Police Chief Savage


FORT PIERCE, Florida — The issue at trial is whether a man went uninvited to a house where his estranged wife was staying and hit her.

But the question at the heart of the defense and behind many of the questions asked Thursday was whether the estranged wife, a secretary at the police department, was having an affair with her boss.

The Rev. Paul Smith, 46, of Palm City is charged with burglary with a battery against his wife, Rose Smith, in connection with the incident on May 23, 2004. Both sides presented evidence in the case Thursday and closing arguments are scheduled for this morning, with the case likely going to the jury later in the day.

Paul Smith claims the charge against him is part of a conspiracy between his wife and Fort Pierce Police Chief Eugene Savage, while Rose Smith denies having an affair. The Smiths are in the process of getting a divorce, but it is not final.

They both took the stand Thursday to give differing accounts of what happened that morning and why their marriage fell apart.

Rose Smith, secretary to Savage, told jurors her husband became increasingly angry at her starting in January 2004. She finally left him in May 2004 and went to stay with a friend.

"I felt he was going to do something," she said. "He was displaying anger in many different ways."

She said she woke up on the couch at her friend's house around 5:30 a.m. on the day of incident to find Smith, who came in through an unlocked sliding glass door, shaking her awake. He told her to come with him to talk with a pastor and when she refused, he struck her several times in the head, she said.

Her sister, who was sleeping in the next room, woke up and saw Smith standing over her. The sister told him to leave and he took the family dog and left.

Rose Smith went to the hospital for treatment and testified her head was pounding after the incident. A Port St. Lucie police officer who investigated said he didn't see any visible injuries.

Paul Smith traced the collapse of the marriage back to 2001 when he shut down a profitable cleaning business to answer the call of the ministry, he said. His wife was not happy with his decision and tension grew between them.

Paul Smith testified he became suspicious in 2003 that his wife might be cheating on him with Savage and confronted her several times, finally asking her to leave the house if she wouldn't stop seeing Savage. He admitted to going to the house the morning of the incident, but said his wife invited him and he denied striking her.

"I love my wife. I've never hurt her and never would," he said.

Savage's ex-wife, Gwendolyn Boyd, was the final defense witness. She testified she discovered Rose Smith at Savage's home after Hurricane Frances in September 2004; she found a negligee and discovered Rose Smith partly undressed in a guest bathroom at the house, she said.

Though Paul Smith said he talked with Boyd several times about his suspicions prior to the May incident, she said she first heard from him in June 2004. Boyd, who is the police chief for the North Miami Police Department, divorced Savage in April 2005.

In statements that did not go before the jury, Paul Smith said his wife concocted false charges against him with the input of Savage.

"The whole process is corrupt," he told Judge Burton Conner before the trial began. "Everybody in this courtroom knows I'm set up."

Smith is the former pastor of Miracle Baptist Mission of East Stuart and founder of a Treasure Coast prison ministry. He fled the area after warrants were issued in 2004, but returned to Fort Pierce and was arrested in July 2005 outside a City Commission meeting.

He faces four counts of aggravated stalking after being accused of contacting his wife several times against the terms of a domestic violence injunction.

For roughly a year, Savage and Rose Smith have been the target of anonymous letters written by people claiming to be Fort Pierce police employees. The letters, addressed to city and county officials and the media, express support for Paul Smith and accuse Savage of abusing his position.


See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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