Ryder Alan Smith is being tried for murder in connection with the death of Peter Horace-Wright, and Smith’s attorney on Monday — the opening day of his trial — worked to establish that the incident was a case of self-defense.
Outside of the Rabinowitz Courthouse, Horace-Wright’s friends and relatives demonstrated. They want a murder conviction and maintain that Smith is a violent man who bragged about the killing.
“We are here because Peter doesn’t have a voice, that was taken from him,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Horace-Wright’s mother. “There have been repeated lies told about him. We will continue to fight for him because the truth needs to be heard. We are standing up for my son, that (suspect) family needs to be exposed. If that boy is let out, believe me there will be another murder, the way he brags about it.”
Horace-Wright died at Badger Towing and Recovery, located on Peger Road, at about 5 a.m. on Nov. 14, 2019, after being shot twice in the upper thigh near the groin and once in the abdomen. The 24-year-old left behind a child who is about to turn 3.
A recording of the incident was played in court, and Horace-Wright could be heard telling Smith, “This is live,” before a shotgun was fired and Smith was heard moaning. Later, Alaska State Troopers found four spent casings, one unspent casing and one smashed cellphone inside the shop. Outside the shop were Horace-Wright’s cell phone and vehicle, which had been shot.
Smith and Horace-Wright had met earlier that morning at a gas station and decided to hang out and have drinks.
Smith’s father testified that the incident involved mutual combat. He said that Smith had been severely choked by Horace-Wright and that his son’s shoulder appeared to have been dislocated. Smith’s father said in testimony that he saw raw security video footage, now erased, showing the men had struggled before the shooting.
Smith reportedly called his father after shooting Horace-Wright and waited 11 minutes to call 911 as Horace-Wright moaned in pain. He initially told authorities that he had shot an intruder during a burglary and later said Horace-Wright attacked him while they were discussing a truck that was for sale.
If convicted, Smith, 23, faces up to 99 years in prison on a charge of first-degree murder and up to five years in prison on a charge of tampering with physical evidence.
Online court records show that Smith is having a bench trial in which there is no jury. The judge will make a finding.
Among the witnesses called on Monday were multiple law enforcement personnel who responded to the scene. An Alaska State Trooper described Smith’s demeanor that morning saying he was emotional, shaking, crying and appeared traumatized.
Authorities had at first believed the incident was self-defense but later, after analyzing a cell phone recording, charges were filed.
Smith has a history of minor offenses that date back to 2014. They include a long-term civil protective order filed against him in 2018. Smith has two pending misdemeanor assault charges that were filed in 2020 for an incident on Aug. 17, 2018.
About a dozen friends and relatives of Horace-Wright, including his grandmother and sister, are calling for “justice for Peter.” They have demonstrated at multiple of Smith’s court hearings. They plan to be there every day this week, they said. A memorial table was set up with multiple photographs of Horace-Wright.
Demientieff described her son as “a really good guy” and a “very involved dad” who she said was never late picking up his son from her house.
When Demientieff did not hear from him the morning that he was killed, she knew something was wrong.
The trial continues Tuesday.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMborough.
Contact reporter Liv Clifford at 459-7582 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMcrime.