Jury acquits man charged in Middlesboro teen's death

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CLAIBORNE COUNTY, Tn. (WYMT) The Claiborne County, Tennessee man accused in the death of a Middlesboro teenager has been found not guilty. 68-year-old David Wayne Rowland was acquitted of reckless homicide and criminally negligent homicide.

Thursday's court proceedings included testimony from a neighbor who says he heard the November 26th, 2011 shooting incident that left 15-year-old Devin Smith dead.

"I heard two gunshots, and it went like bam bam! That's what I heard," said Dale Wayne Baker.

Council walked the jury through the events of that day. They say Smith had joined his grandfather for a squirrel hunt on a wooded plot in Claiborne County.

"Going through the woods I guess Devin had somewhere maybe picked up a branch or broke a branch off, and was rattling it around," said Captain David Hunnicutt, chief detective for the Claiborne County Sheriff's Office.

Rowland himself took the stand. He claims he was hunting the property for deer, saw what he thought were antlers, and pulled the trigger.

"When I got up there, I hear the deer antlers rattling, I see the deer antlers through the brush, and that's when I shot," he said.

After hearing final arguments from both the prosecution and defense, jurors spent more than three hours deliberating the verdict.

The jury acquitted Rowland of reckless homicide, as well as a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Devin Smith.

"Anything you would like to say to the family of Devin Smith?" a lawyer asked. "You know I prayed for him. That's all I can do for him," Rowland said in reply.

Upon the announcement, Rowland was released a free man.

Rowland's lawyers advised him not to talk to us following his acquittal, as he still faces a civil suit stemming from the incident.


CLAIBORNE COUNTY, Tenn. (WYMT) - Wednesday, a grandfather told a jury about watching his 15-year old grandson die.

The trial started on Wednesday in Claiborne County, Tennessee for David Wayne Rowland, the man charged with reckless homicide in the death of Middlesboro teen Devin Smith.

The jury must decide if it was an accident or a crime.

Leonard Duffield told the jury how much he loved 15-year old Devin Smith.

"He was my grandson. He was my best friend," said Duffield.

The Middlesboro High School student was visiting his grandfather in Claiborne County on November 26th, 2011. The two were squirrel hunting when Devin's life ended.

"He took two to three steps up the hill and stopped, shook another bush about even with a tree, and a gunshot went off," Duffield testified.

Then Duffield described watching his grandson die.

"His clothes all bloody and he fell face first down on the mud, leaves, and stuff," Duffield said while crying on the stand.

Duffield says then 68-year old David Wayne Rowland appeared and admitted he fired the shot.

"I said, you killed that kid. He said he thought it was a big buck," said Duffield.

Defense attorneys argue the deadly shooting was just a hunting accident.

The grandfather acknowledged he and his grandson were not wearing hunter orange at the time of the shooting.

Rowland's attorney also admitted in court Rowland was also not wearing hunter orange that day.

The trial continues on Thursday.

Defense attorneys indicate Rowland will testify in the trial.


MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WYMT) - For one Bell County mother, a hunting trip brings back painful memories.
In 2011, Jane Hurst's son, 15-year-old Devin Smith, died in what was first called a freak hunting accident.

Later, a Claiborne County, Tennessee grand jury indicted the other hunter police say fired the fatal shot. 68-year old David Wayne Rowland is charged with reckless homicide and failure to wear the daylight orange material.

The trial for Rowland starts on Wednesday in Claiborne County.

Tuesday is Jane Hurst's birthday. She spent her birthday remembering her son who died more than one year ago.

"Feels like it happened yesterday," Hurst said.

On November 26th, 2011, Middlesboro High School student Devin Smith and his grandfather were hunting in Claiborne County, Tennessee when investigators say another hunter shot him.

"It's been very tough. It's nothing I would wish on anyone," said Hurst.

David Wayne Rowland told police he mistook the teenager for an animal moving and fired his gun, killing Smith.

A Claiborne County grand jury indicted him in December of 2011.

Hurst says she has been waiting for the trial.

"It's been very hard and hopefully after the trial, we can let Devin rest because we've not been able to let him rest because this has been going on so long," Hurst said.

Hurst says no matter what happens in the trial, it will not ease the pain of losing her son.

"I don't think any charge would be enough for losing a child. There's nothing they could take from anyone that took your child because your child cannot be replaced," she said.

Smith would have turned 16 four days after he died. Hurst was preparing for her son's birthday when he died. Now on her own birthday, she is preparing to see the man authorities say is responsible in court.

"It's going to be very tough, very tough," she said.

Smith's grandfather, who was hunting with him and there when he died, is expected to testify during the trial.

The Claiborne County trial starts Wednesday morning with jury selection.

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