Church Members Testify In Murder Trial

A Georgia jury heard from members of a middle Tennessee church Monday. They testified at the murder trial of two members of The Brentwood-based Remnant Fellowship Church. Sonia and Joseph Smith are charged with killing their 8-year-old son Josef in 2003.

The defense put the church members on the stand. Lawyers wanted to show young Josef in a different light than the prosecution had so far in the trial. They wanted to put out a new theory on how the young boy died.

The Smiths lived in Georgia in 2003, but they worshipped at the Remnant Fellowship over the internet. On special occasions, the family would travel from Georgia to Tennessee. In August, 2003, they went for church camp.

The defense wanted to show Josef in a different light, in a way that the jury hadn’t seen so far in the trial.

“Played well with the other kids, loved all the activity and, as you can see, he got into the games, and nothing out of the ordinary,” church member Andrew Nissen said.

The Smiths took their children to church camp two months before Josef died. Three days before Josef’s death in 2003, Jane Dubois spent the weekend with Josef and his family at a women’s health show in Burmingham.

“He was very lively, active, happy. Very social,” she said.

While on the stand, she gave some info on the glue sticks, and how church members encouraged their use on disruptive children.

Church leader Gwen Shamblin has said she never advocated the use of glue sticks, but that other church members might have.

The court also heard from a medical expert from Duke University who said Josef died from blood poisoning. A dermatologist also took the stand to go over why he may have had the bruises on his body. she said it could have been from eczema, and excessive scratching that could have broken the skin, became infected, then caused the blood poisoning.

Testimony continues Tuesday morning in the case.

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Feb. 13, 2007
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This post was last updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at 10:58 AM, Central European Time (CET)