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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It took more than seven years after Ernest Smith was gunned down outside his New Orleans home in the spring of 2006 until his widow was arrested and charged in his death, but she had been on police radar early on.
"Please be advised that the beneficiary, Emma Smith, wife of the deceased, cannot be ruled out as a suspect in the death of Ernest Smith," a New Orleans detective wrote to an insurance investigation company in a July 12, 2006, letter.
By the time Emma Smith was arrested in that case in 2013, she had a new name, Emma Raine, and was, again, a widow. Her third husband, James Raine, 37, was shot to death at the couple's Pearl River County, Mississippi, home in 2011. Authorities had their suspicions in that case too, even though Emma Raine was out of town at the time.
"She is a suspect in that James Raine case," Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison said in a 2015 interview.
"And through investigating that case we were able to get some information that New Orleans needed and passed it on to them," Allison added.
James Raine's death remains unsolved but Emma Raine is now on trial on a second-degree murder charge in 38-year-old Ernest Smith's death.
On Wednesday, the opening day of testimony, prosecutors told jurors they will prove that Emma and James Raine arranged Ernest Smith's murder at the hands of James's adoptive brother, Alfred "Terry" Everette.
Everette was convicted of second-degree murder in the case in December 2014.
There was a tense moment when the convicted trigger-man entered the courtroom in shackles but refused to go near the witness stand. Everette is appealing his conviction in Smith's death and refused to testify despite a court order that he appear and despite a grant of immunity that would prevent his testimony from being used against him in his appeal.
State Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier didn't order that he be forcibly placed on the stand. She did allow prosecutors to question him in front of the jury as he sat in the courtroom several yards from the stand after refusing to be sworn in. He sat silently and did not respond to questions.
Then Enoch Raine, the brother of James Raine and Everette took the stand. He said that after Raine's murder in October 2011, Everette tearfully confessed that he had killed Smith years earlier, at the behest of James and Emma.
Enoch said he and his uncle insisted that Everette turn himself in. He never did. Enoch said he eventually called a "cold case" detective in New Orleans in 2012, leading to Emma's eventual arrest.
The case involves complicated insurance matters and complex relationships within the Raine family.
"In this particular case we are going to need diagrams," Rodrigue said in an opening statement.
No eyewitness testimony or physical evidence links Emma Raine to the killing, Rodrigue said. But she said witnesses would testify that Everette admitted killing Smith at the urging of Emma and James Raine for a share of life insurance money. She added that documents will show that Emma bumped up the value of policies on Smith over the years before his death and that, to overcome an unexpected legal glitch, she arranged for her daughter to forge the name of Smith's daughter on insurance documents.
Defense attorney Martin Regan's view of the case: James Raine and Terry Everette plotted Ernest Smith's death without involving Emma. He cast the late James Raine as an opportunist who seduced Emma as she suffered through an unhappy marriage to Smith and plotted Smith's death to get her money.
"This case is about greed and money, infidelity and a guy named James," Regan said.
He stressed that Emma Raine has never been arrested in James Raine's death.
"Who kills James Raine? Was it another jealous husband?" Regan asked.
Attorneys have said the trial could last until Monday.
It was unclear whether jurors will hear testimony about the death of Emma Raine's first husband, Leroy Evans, who died while hospitalized in 1994 after he was hit by a car. No arrests were ever reported in that case but, during Everette's trial, prosecutors called his death suspicious.
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