Christopher Smith, Influential Arizona Politico Found Shot to Death, Had History With Drugs

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Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith, the former chief of staff for the state Senate found shot to death Saturday, had a history of drug use and other "bizarre" and "erratic" behavior , court records show.

We hate to say it, but we called this one -- which is why on Monday we asked Phoenix Police Sergeant Trent Crump if the murder was drug related.

Crump would only say the motive for the shooting was still under investigation.

But what was a prominent member of Arizona's political community doing in a seedy part of Phoenix on a Saturday night? Court records first obtained by the Arizona Republic shed a little light on that aspect of the bizarre murder.

The Republic did a story in 2005 called "Love Story" -- a column about Smith and his wife.

"He's truly a very good person," his wife is quoted as saying. "He's genuine and thoughtful - not just personally but in the grand scheme of things."

As the paper points out, in the last year, something changed.

From the Republic:

Records show Smith moved out of the home he'd lived in with his wife and three daughters in March. His wife stated in court documents that at that time, there had been "at least six months of erratic, bizarre, unexplained behavior" from Smith that culminated with her finding him with glass pipes, other drug paraphernalia and a large amount of pornography in their home.

Court documents mention "severe drug dependency issues" and state that "wife believes husband is so withdrawn as a result of the substance abuse that he cannot make rational decisions."

She filed for divorce in June and was granted an order of protection against Smith.

That explains the "problems" to which Former Senate Minority Leader Dr. Tom Patterson, who hired Smith as his chief of staff in the 1990s, was referring when he said "I had talked to him just the day he died, and he was, to be honest, having a few problems in his life, but he seemed to be coming out of them."

Smith, 51, was found fatally shot in his car parked in the 1000 block of 18th Avenue about 8 p.m. Saturday night -- not exactly the greatest part of town.

Police were already in the area responding to an unrelated incident when they heard gun shots. They responded to where they heard the shots and found Smith shot in the head sitting in his Nissan.

Witnesses told cops they saw people running from the area of 18th Avenue and Buckeye Road after the shooting.

No arrests have been made in connection to the murder.

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7 comments
Old dog
Old dog

I've been wrestling with this most of the night. All through midnight Mass I thought about Christopher Smith, the man I knew and admired for about 20 years. I would not go so far as to call him a friend, but rather an acquaintance with whom I was on friendly terms.

Chris was one of the smartest, sharpest people I knew down at the Legislature when I worked there. He knew how to get things done, and he seemed to be a serious guy who knew how to have a laugh now and then. I read his obit in the Republic and I, like probably most who knew him, was stunned at the breadth of his accomplishments.

All night I wondered why it wasn't in the cards for me to know Chris better. We were both from the beaches of the East Coast. We were both Deadheads, Catholics and conservative Republicans. The obit spoke of an interesting time early in his life. That said something to me, something quite familiar.

What is bugging me most of all is why I was not cast into Chris' life at a time when maybe my experience, faith and hope might have helped him out of the deep hole and bad craziness that was his last year.

I was counting it up, sitting there in the church. There are at least four, and probably as many as six or seven, men I called my "brothers" who have gone down by the needle, the pipe or the bottle. I abused every drug there was during my scufflin' days, and I easily could have ended up in futility like my brothers. But I survived, and the best period of my life followed.

It's tearing at me why the spirit who guides me did not use me to help these good men when they needed it most. I guess it's not for me to know. As our friend Jerry Garcia sang 40 years ago, "If I knew the way, I would take you home."

But maybe some day, Chris, somewhere, my brothers, it will be like Bob Marley sang,

"Good friends we have, oh, good friends we've lostAlong the wayIn this great future,You can't forget your pastSo dry your tears, I say...Everything gonna be all right..."

Fuckthenewtimes
Fuckthenewtimes

The "problems" he referred to had to do with a series of very serious immune system related challenges and the fact that it nearly killed him several times. Add to this the related pain, counteracting medications and it is understandable why drugs entered into the picture. You people at the New Times truely are a bunch of hack jack-asses who are incapable of researching the entire truth before casting the most negative stone you can spot laying about.

Qualitystampseal
Qualitystampseal

I realize most of these posts appreciate the anonymity they afford, but I, as Chris' brother and person closest to him during the trying times you allude to, wanted to thank you for some of the only grains of truth that have appeared in this low level publication.It is amazing that some people are granted the title of "reporter" when they have no idea of truth or the consequences they cause due to irresponsibility.It would appear you knew Chris, as you do have some awareness of the medical issues (of which there were more and unnecessary to share at this juncture) that lead him to a bad choice out of excruciating pain and frustration. Drugs are not the answer, obviously, and we wish more help had been afforded him, but the facts remain that he was a wonderful & caring man.The trivial and tawdry reporting might sell copies of this rag, but truth is so much better to people of substance that really care. Once again, I thank you for being one of those.

Marc Smith

Star2925
Star2925

Marc, My name is Jack Starr, I worked with and shared a house with Chris in Houston back in the 80's. We did some GPS surveying during the early days and spent some time traveling around the US and Columbia. Chris was a great, guy, very kind, sensitive, special and unique. I was actually googling him to try to get in touch when I ran across this. I am extremely saddened to know that he is no longer with us. I had much love for my friend. I'll never forget him. If you happen to read this please contact me at star2925@ bellsouth.net and tell me what happened.THanks

Gingerbread McMahon
Gingerbread McMahon

Hi Marc,

I was deeply saddened to hear about what had happened to Chris. I am offering up a Daily Morning Novena to St. Joseph on Chris's behalf & for your family as well. I have a complete understanding as to what the real truth is in this tragic situation. My Best Regards My Friend.

Linda J. Morrow McMahon OCHS

Qualitystampseal
Qualitystampseal

Linda:Would like to talk with you and thank you, but don't want to do it here. I think you have a way to get my number?Marc

Old dog
Old dog

Sorry, FTN. I missed your post before I offered my thoughts. You sound like you were close to Chris. If I offended you, I am sorry. I am just frustrated at why I have survived and not been able to offer one lick of my help from experience to these men I admired. I've said what prayers for Chris I can. I hope it helped.

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