A defendant tried to escape trouble by blaming his identical twin but failed to convince a Gwinnett County jury that he was not responsible for a 2008 murder.
It took less than two hours of deliberation for jurors to conclude Friday that 54-year-old Ronald Smith of Lawrenceville — and not his twin, Donald Smith — was guilty of carjacking and fatally shooting DeKalb County schoolteacher Genai Coleman, said Lisa Jones, deputy chief assistant district attorney for Gwinnett County.
Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner sentenced him to life plus 25 years in prison.
Coleman had been waiting to pick up her teenage daughter from a transit station in Duluth on July 18, 2008, when someone shot her, stole her Dodge Intrepid and later abandoned the vehicle in Forest Park.
Gwinnett police initially zeroed in on the wrong twin.
A comparison of saliva samples taken from a cigarette butt found in the car against a national database of convicted felons produced a match with Donald Smith, who had a prior drug-related conviction. He was arrested Feb. 3, 2010.
But investigators soon learned that Donald Smith had an identical twin, and that identical DNA twins have identical DNA profiles. The evidence implicated them both.
Fingerprints found on Coleman’s car matched Ronald Smith, Jones said. Cellphone records also placed him near the scene.
Ronald Smith was arrested Feb. 6, 2010, and his brother was set free.
Upon his arrest, Ronald Smith allegedly admitted shooting Coleman but claimed the gun fired accidentally. He had a different excuse when the case went to trial, though.
“He said it was not him and blamed his twin brother,” Jones said.
Defense attorney Rob Greenwald said Ronald Smith’s fingerprints were only on the car because he helped his brother clean it.
Jurors sided with prosecutors and with Donald Smith, who testified earlier this week that he didn’t commit the crime.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.
Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.