A former football player who lived in Marina del Rey plead not guilty on Wednesday to four murder charges.
Anthony Wayne Smith, 45, was originally charged only with the 2008 murder of Maurillo Ponce, but police charged him with three additional murders on July 2 that stem back to over a decade ago. He was awaiting retrial for the Ponce murder after a jury failed to reach a verdict in April.
Smith allegedly beat and shot Ponce, 31, dumping his body about 11 miles west of Lancaster. In July, police tied three other murders to Smith, charging him for the 1999 double-murder of Rick and Kevin Nettles and the 2001 murder of Dennis Henderson.
The brothers were kidnapped by two men posing as police officers on Nov. 10, 1999 from a carwash in Los Angeles, which the siblings owned. The brothers were later found dead, handcuffed and apparently tortured, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.
The criminal complaint charges Smith with murder and kidnapping to commit robbery, and includes special circumstance allegations of multiple murders involving torture.
Henderson was kidnapped on June 24, 2001, along with Terry Ware, who was later released. Henderson was found bound and gagged in the back seat of a rental car. Henderson’s brother lived next door to Smith in Marina del Rey, Gibbons said.
Smith was also charged with arson in the February 2003 firebombing of a Santa Monica furniture store – a crime that allegedly stemmed from a dispute over a few hundred dollars and a statue left at the store on consignment. But a judge dismissed the case against him in December 2004 after two juries deadlocked –the second 11-1 in favor of acquittal.
Smith subsequently sued a Santa Monica police sergeant, contending that he was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted. A panel from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Smith's claim in a 2-1 ruling in October 2010.
Smith, who was born in North Carolina, played college football at the University of Arizona and was the Raiders top pick in the 1990 draft and the 11th player chosen overall. He played for the Raiders in Los Angeles and Oakland from 1991 to 1998. He was living in Marina del Rey at the time Ponce was killed.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Smith.
City News Service contributed to this report.