Placerville, CA (Nov. 28, 2023) – The much-anticipated preliminary hearing for David and Shane Smith, the father-and-son duo accused of recklessly starting the catastrophic Caldor Fire in August 2021, commenced on Tuesday before El Dorado Superior Court Judge Vicki Ashworth. The proceedings are expected to extend into Wednesday, culminating in Judge Ashworth’s decision on whether there’s sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
Prosecutors Hint at Errant Gunfire Theory:
As testimony unfolded, El Dorado Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden hinted at a prosecution strategy linking errant gunfire from the Smiths to the ignition of the devastating Northern California blaze. However, Linden refrained from elaborating further when pressed by reporters.
Defense Dismisses Target Practice Allegations:
Mark Reichel and Linda Parisi, defense attorneys for the Smiths, countered the prosecution’s insinuations, dismissing the theory that target practice led to the fire as “nonsense.”
Key Witness Describes Suspicious ATV Ride:
The preliminary hearing kicked off with testimony from Robert Bossard, a witness who camped near the fire’s origin site for five days before the incident. Bossard recounted observing two men on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in the vicinity, driving around for up to three hours before heading over a hillside.
Gunshots and Urgent Fire Report:
According to Bossard’s testimony, within 15 minutes of the ATV’s departure, he heard rapid-fire gunshots—potentially from a handgun. The men on the ATV returned shortly, warning of a fire on the other side of the hill. Despite being unable to identify the individuals, Bossard highlighted their responsible action of reporting the fire promptly.
Fire Report and 911 Call:
Bossard recounted that the duo went to the top of a hill, where he could hear them calling 911. They informed Bossard’s camp about the fire’s size, attempted to stomp it out unsuccessfully, and ultimately advised evacuating the area.
Defense Emphasizes Responsible Action:
While neither defense attorney commented on whether the Smiths were firing weapons, Linda Parisi emphasized their responsible behavior in promptly reporting the fire, suggesting a conscientious response to the unfolding emergency.
As the preliminary hearing continues, the courtroom remains a focal point for unraveling the events leading to the Caldor Fire and determining the fate of the accused father and son.