Alabama man accused of murdering Illinois woman 34 years ago says too much time has passed to try case

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The case is just too old.

That’s the argument from the defense team of an Alabama man accused of murdering a 19-year-old woman in northern Illinois over 30 years ago.

Jesse Smith, 67, of Tuscumbia, is accused of killing Tammy Tracey in Rockford, Illinois in 1987. Smith’s attorney, Christopher DeRango, is seeking for the charges against him to be dropped, citing that many witnesses and suspects have died since the murder took place, and that his client is innocent.

“He’s an elderly man, 67 years old, and he’s now been in jail for a year for something I firmly believe he absolutely didn’t do,” DeRango said. “Our motion to dismiss the indictment, and the reason we’re asking to do that, is because after 34 years, after most of these things, evidence, has been lost, which would be of substantial benefit to our defense of, Jesse.”

DeRango said there are many reasons to support this idea.

“To get evidence into a courtroom, you have to bring in a human being that can say, ‘I know these things were said, either I said them or I was there when they were said under certain circumstances,’ but we can’t do that because all the people that were present when those things were said are dead,” he said. “Because the state has waited 34 years to charge this case, it’s gone, it’s gone forever, people are dead, memories are lost.”

According to DeRango, the state’s star witness is Smith’s ex-wife, whom he claimed on 14 occasions said she did not have any information. However, DeRango said that one one occasion, a doctor gave her sodium amytal, better known as “truth serum,” and her story changed.

“There’s no physical evidence that ties Jesse to this crime,” he said. “Nothing, not a thing.”

DeRango said he hopes to bring in an expert who can discuss the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of sodium amytal.

“If the judge is not going to grant our motion to dismiss, than we are going to file the appropriate motions related to things we don’t believe should be admitted as credible evidence, and we’re going to get this thing moving to trial,” he said.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley released this statement:

“With respect to the prosecution of Jesse Smith, we believe the prosecution is pending and thus, beyond what we have stated in court, we have no additional comment on the case. There is no statute of limitation on First-Degree Murder.”

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