Trotwood man sentenced in Troy death case that both sides called ‘difficult’

William C. Smith II
William C. Smith II

A Trotwood man convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a Troy man following an altercation at a Troy residence in December was sentenced Friday to two years in prison in a case prosecutors and the defense lawyer called “difficult.”

William C. Smith II, 43, was indicted on a first-degree involuntary manslaughter charge in the Dec. 8 death of Willard Higgins Jr., 40. The charge was reduced to a third-degree felony in August, and Smith pleaded no contest and was found guilty in Miami County Common Pleas Court.

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Police said the altercation followed a comment by one of the men about the other's girlfriend. An ambulance was called after the altercation when Higgins had difficulty breathing. He died later that day at Kettering Medical Center. The cause of death following an autopsy was listed by a coroner as blunt force trauma.

A one-year prison sentence was recommended by county Prosecutor Tony Kendell and defense lawyer Dennis Lieberman.

Judge Christopher Gee sentenced Smith to the one year and added a second one-year term because Smith was serving post-release control on another criminal charge at the time of the December incident. Smith will receive credit for 302 days served in the county jail following his arrest.

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Lieberman called the case “difficult for a number of reasons.” Among the reasons he cited was a second coroner’s review of the autopsy and the finding “there was absolutely no sign of a fight, no bruises on the deceased” along with evidence of the deceased having prior heart problems, he said.

“We don’t know for sure what actually occurred to have caused this death. We do know the defendant was involved. He has entered a plea of guilty. He is sorry,” Lieberman said.

A crying Smith stood and addressed Higgins’ family and friends.

“I want to say I am sorry," he said.

A brother of Higgins said the loss was difficult on Higgins’ children, family and friends who would never see him again. The brother said he personally had forgiven Smith so he could go on.

Kendell said after the hearing that the lack of any marks from a fight on Higgins’ body and brain and information received after the charges were filed about him having heart attacks following the incident made the case more difficult.

“These were not insurmountable. However, with no marks, no bruises to indicate he was struck was very problematic because the mechanism of death, no doctor could speak to it," he said. “It was a very difficult case."

Gee said he found Smith remorseful and talked of comments he’d read in victim impact statements from Higgins’ family and friends. Several talked of his kindness and referred to him “as a big-hearted person,” the judge said. “There is nothing I could say or do that would change the fact he’s no longer with you and, for that, I am sorry.”