NEW ORLEANS – A business owner and semiprofessional football player was indicted Thursday on a second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of retired New Orleans Saints’ defensive end Will Smith.
Cardell Hayes was also indicted on a charge of attempted murder because police say he wounded Smith’s wife after they got into a dispute when Hayes’s Hummer hit Smith’s Mercedes SUV from behind on April 9. Smith’s wife was in the passenger seat at the time.
Hayes’ defense lawyer, John Fuller, has said Hayes was not the aggressor and that a witness saw a gun in Smith’s possession. Police say a loaded gun was found in Smith’s vehicle.
A lawyer for Smith’s family, Peter Thomson, insists Smith never brandished or carried it. Thomson has described Hayes as “enraged” during the altercation and portrayed his clients as the victims.
Smith was shot seven times in the back and once along his side, the coroner said. His wife, Racquel, was shot twice in the legs but survived.
Smith was heralded as a leader on the Saints team that rebounded with the hurricane-stricken city and won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season. He stayed in the area after his 2012 retirement and was active with various charities in his adopted city.
The indictment was handed down during a preliminary hearing on whether police had enough evidence to keep Hayes in jail, where he has been since the shooting. With the indictment handed down, prosecutors will likely be able to keep some evidence closer to the vest rather than present it during a preliminary hearing.
During the hearing and before the indictment was announced, Fuller accused prosecutors of trying to “jam an indictment down our throats” by trying to take Hayes to a grand jury proceeding when they knew that Fuller and his co-counsel would be in court on other matters.
Hayes was also charged with aggravated assault and aggravated damage to property.
Hayes owns a tow truck company and last year played in a semiprofessional league. His attorney has repeatedly pointed out that Hayes stayed at the scene of the shooting until police arrived.