Was there a fight, or not? Expert approved to review details in Miami County manslaughter case

A Miami County judge Friday approved a defense request for money to pay a forensic pathologist to review cause of death information of a Troy man in the involuntary manslaughter case against a Trotwood man.

William C. Smith Jr., 42, faces a felony involuntary manslaughter charge in the Dec. 8 death of Willard Higgins Jr., 40, of Troy. Troy police said Higgins died following an altercation with Smith at a South Walnut Street residence in Troy. Police said an ambulance was called because Higgins was having difficulty breathing.

Smith has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

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Defense lawyer Dennis Lieberman wrote in the motion to appoint the forensic pathologist that he was hired by Smith’s family but neither they nor Smith have the resources to pay for the expert review and possible testimony. He asked Common Pleas Judge Christopher Gee to approve paying for William Ralston III, chief medical examiner in Louisville, Ky.

In court Friday, Lieberman said he and county Prosecutor Tony Kendell met jointly with another pathologist who ruled after an autopsy that Higgins’ cause of death was due to blunt force trauma. Lieberman said there were no signs “on the body or head to indicate a fight.”

That information, along with medical record details about Higgins’ heart being revived at the hospital, were cited in the request. Kendell did not object to the request.

“It is a very unique set of circumstances,” Kendell said of the case.

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Lieberman said Ralston first would be asked to review available medical records to see if they contain information needed.

Gee said he would approve up to $1,500 for the review.

Smith remains in the county jail in lieu of $300,000 bail.

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