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Trial underway after Greenville man's murder-for-hire plot backfires

James Edward Smith, of Greenville, arrested for hiring man to kill his wife goes to trial. (Photo: Pitt County Sheriff's Office)

The trial for a Greenville man accused of hiring someone to kill his wife is underway after his murder-for-hire plot was foiled when the man he hired to do the job contacted police.

35-year-old James "Ed" Edward Smith was arrested in July 2017, charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder. He was booked into the Pitt County Jail under a $1 million bond. Opening statements began on Tuesday.

The Prosecution claims that Clayton Edwards went to police on July 23, 2017 telling authorities that an acquaintance of his had contacted him about trying to kill his wife. That acquaintance, which authorities later identified as Smith, told Edwards that he wanted him to make his wife's death look like a suicide. Once Clayton went to police, investigators set in action an undercover operation, making him record a conversation with Smith. In that conversation, Smith said "make it look like a tussle." The pair then negotiated a price, settling on $20,000. Based on this evidence, police issued a warrant for Smith's arrest.

The Defense argued that Ed Smith and his wife were a married couple of nine years with two kids and that they never had any violence or threat of violence issues. They said that the family even had planned a Disney trip after the date of the planned murder. The couple had also decided to build a house in Hugo, so they were staying with her parents, but Smith went and stayed with his mother, who has dementia, in Hugo the night before his arrest. The defense claims that Edwards had his own motives, bringing up his criminal past.

At trial, the wife said her husband became more distant, irritated and mad about everything she and the children did after they moved in with her parents. She claims he showed less affection and she started noticing changes in his schedule. When her wedding ring went missing, she claims he never helped look for it while the rest of the family did. She also claims that on the Sunday he was arrested, they got into a fight because he became irritable. She said on that same day, he insisted she shoot his gun, but that was unrelated to the bickering. It was also mentioned that she had a life insurance policy of $250,000, which was a trust for their children.

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