Testimony under way in teen murder trial

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Witness was friends with victim, alleged shooters

By Sarah Bennett

Opening statements in the trial of a Louisville teen accused of killing his friend were presented Wednesday, and on Thursday, testimony got under way.

Conner Galenski is one of three Louisville teens charged in the murder of 18-year-old Mackenzie Smyser last year. According to state police, Galenski, Ryan Wilt and Jason Gowers drove Smyser to a location off Patriot Lane near Ky. 313  on Nov. 2, 2010, under the pretense of committing a burglary.

Galenski allegedly shot the victim once in the face while Gowers shot him three times in the chest. Police discovered Smyser’s body Nov. 5.

Wilt and Gowers pleaded guilty earlier this year. Gowers was sentenced in May to 30 years in prison while Wilt is awaiting formal sentencing.

One of the witnesses Thursday testified she was friends with all four teens.

Kristen Smith of Louisville said she knew the teens through her boyfriend, and saw Galenski, Gowers and Wilt on the night of the shooting.

At 4 p.m. Nov. 2, Wilt drove Smith and her boyfriend to Smith’s mother’s house in Germantown, Smith said. Galenski and Gowers also were in the car. She did not see Smyser that day, she said.

The last time she saw Smyser alive was Oct. 30, she said.

Sometime between 1 and 2 a.m., the three teens picked up Smith and her boyfriend. When asked if she remembered noticing a gun or blood, Smith said she saw neither.

Smith remembered the three teens making “choking” sounds on the car ride back to her apartment. When she and her boyfriend asked what the sounds meant, they were told, “It’s an inside joke. You wouldn’t understand.”

When defense counsel Rick Hardin asked if Galenski participated in the choking sounds, Smith said she couldn’t remember specific details about who said what but remembers all three making the noises.

Gowers and Galenski spent the night at Smith’s apartment, she said. Sometime the following day, Smith remembered seeing Gowers with a blue bandanna that belonged to Smyser.

Gowers told Smith he and Galenski were going to burn the bandanna and asked if she wanted to watch. Smith said she asked Gowers what was the importance of burning the bandanna, and he said it belonged to Smyser.

She said her boyfriend later found the burned bandanna in her back yard.

Though Smith said she wasn’t there at the time, she told the court Galenski was at her apartment Nov. 4 when police arrived to question him.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.