19-year-old charged in fatal Independence shooting suspected to be drug deal gone wrong

Tammy Ljungblad /tljungblad@kcstar.com

A 19-year-old is accused of fatally shooting another 19-year-old inside a vehicle in mid-December in Independence over a suspected marijuana deal where authorities found $60 in counterfeit bills at the crime scene.

Chadd J. Williams, of Independence, was charged Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and two counts of armed criminal action in the killing of James D. Smith, also 19 and from Independence.

Williams was arrested Tuesday shortly after he was seen leaving Truman High School at 3301 South Noland Road in Independence, according to court documents.

On Dec. 18, around 3:30 a.m., Independence police officers were dispatched to the 1000 block of South Brookside Avenue on a report of a man unconscious inside of a vehicle parked near the trash dumpsters of an apartment complex.

Responding officers found Smith in the driver’s seat of a black Chrysler 300. All of its doors were ajar, according to court documents, and three $20 bills were on the ground that appeared to investigators to be fakes.

Smith had apparent injuries to his face and an apparent gunshot wound to his chest. According to charging documents, video recordings from the area and other information obtained by detectives led them to conclude the shooting unfolded Dec. 17 around 5:30 p.m., roughly 10 hours before officers were first dispatched to the scene.

Surveillance video from the Brookside Apartments complex showed a Nissan SUV pull into a parking lot for the apartments. At least three people were inside that vehicle, charging documents say, and two were at one point seen walking toward the area where Smith’s vehicle was found parked.

The video also recorded an apparent struggle inside Smith’s vehicle. One of the suspects was seen holding what appeared to be a firearm fitted with a flashlight and a green laser sight.

On Dec. 22, detectives received photographs from Smith’s Snapchat account containing messages of an arrangement to purchase marijuana. Records obtained by investigators were compared with phone records, including location information, that led to Williams as a suspect in the homicide investigation, according to court documents.

On Monday, Independence police traced the phone associated with Williams to Truman High School. A school resource officer identified the suspect as Williams after being shown a Snapchat video, according to charging documents, and detectives further compared the video to Truman High School photographs.

Detectives followed Williams to his Independence home, a Walmart and to Truman High School on Monday and Tuesday. He was arrested at a gas station and convenience store after walking there from the school after classes let out Tuesday afternoon.

During an interview with Independence detectives, Williams said he was not in Independence on the evening of Dec. 17 and was visiting his grandmother in Kansas City. Authorities allege his statements were contradicted by cellphone location data obtained with the assistance of the FBI.

Court records did not list a defense attorney for Williams as of Wednesday afternoon.