Slaying over Christmas lights nets man life plus 8 years

LOUISA, VA (WWBT) -  A Louisa County man was sentenced to life plus eight years for first degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the killing of his wife in a fight over whether to take down the Christmas lights.

Testimony at the September trial indicated that Forrest M. Smythers, Jr., 54, shot his wife in the head following an argument.  Authorities say Smythers shot Dawn Smythers once in the head with a .22 caliber rifle in their home on Jan. 16 when his wife opposed his plan to take down their Christmas lights.

The defendant testified that he accidentally shot his wife when she attempted to grab the weapon from him as he headed out the door for target practice.  Prosecutors poked holes in defendant's argument by using the physical evidence at the scene and pointing out that the alleged target practice would have had to have taken place in the dark.

Following trial, a Louisa County jury recommended a life sentence plus three years for the murder and for the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.  The Court upheld that recommendation and added a mandatory five-year sentence for the possession of firearm by felon conviction.

On speaking on the sentencing, Tom Garrett said "Unfortunately along with joy and happiness, the Christmas season is routinely accompanied by a rise in domestic violence.  Here, a family's Christmas memories are marred forever.  I hope and pray that this holiday season, people will stop and think before they act on fleeting emotions.  The gravest decisions cannot be undone."

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