HOUMA, La. - Jury selection is under way for the trial of a Chauvin truck driver accused of killing his girlfriend and their 2-year-old son.
Tyari Smith Sr., 34, is charged in the January 2010 deaths of Maria Chavez, 26, and Tyari Smith Jr. The two were found shot to death in the family's La. 56 home, just south of the Smithridge Bridge.
Smith allegedly killed the pair after Chavez threatened to leave him and move with their child to California, where she had relatives, police said.
Smith was arrested the day of the shooting and was indicted in February 2010 by a Terrebonne grand jury on two counts of first-degree murder. If convicted, Smith faces a mandatory life prison sentence. Prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty out of deference to the family's wishes.
Jury selection began Tuesday morning in Judge Randy Bethancourt's Houma courtroom and will likely run through Wednesday.
Opening statements could take place on Thursday, said Assistant District Attorney Chris Erny, and the trial could run into next week.
The trial was supposed to take place in January, but was delayed after untested ballistic evidence surfaced, Erny said.
Jurors will hear testimony from several detectives who worked the case and Smith's family, court records show.
Ashley Harding, Smith's younger sister, said the situation is difficult. She wants her brother “to have a fair trial,” for both families who lost loved ones.
“I'm hoping for the best,” said Harding, 28.
Smith is currently serving a five-year prison sentence, having been convicted in April 2010 on multiple St. Tammany drug charges, court records show. He is currently in the Terrebonne Parish jail.
In March 2008, Smith was also accused of firing a gun at three family members who were inside a car parked outside his home. That argument was about scrap metal stored at the home, police said.
Smith was charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon, Prosecutors later said he fired into the air, didn't aim at any relatives, and he later pleaded guilty to illegal discharge of a weapon. He was given a nine-day jail sentence, court records show.
Bernard Levy, Smith's attorney, did not immediately return a message left Tuesday afternoon.
Staff Writer Katie Urbaszewski contributed to this report. Staff Writer Eric Heisig can be reached at 857-2202 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @HeisigHCDC.