The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 27, 2013

Franklin Co. man indicted 33 years after slaying

— RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Felicia Graham's voiced cracked with emotion as she talked about the telephone call.

Franklin County sheriff's investigator Jason Holcombe called Tuesday to tell Graham that John Donald Smith, of Russellville, has been indicted for murder in connection with the Feb. 16, 1980, death of her husband, Larry Graham.

"All I could think of was 'Thank God.' I have been waiting 33 years to hear what I heard," Graham said.

Larry Graham was 28 and lived in Russellville when he was killed, authorities said.

Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver said the murder indictment against Smith was issued during the recent grand jury session. He said his department reopened the case more than a year ago.

Investigators said Graham was killed during a fight with Melvin Rickard at a residence on Alabama 13 in the Spruce Pine community, south of Russellville.

The house where the fight took place was the residence of a friend of Graham's. Oliver said it still is unclear exactly what started the argument.

During the fight, Graham's throat was cut and he died at the scene, Oliver said.

Smith and Rickard both left the residence, according to reports. Oliver said Rickard, who was in the fight with Graham, was the original suspect, but there never was enough evidence to get an arrest warrant or present the case to the grand jury.

Investigators said Rickard died about 10 years ago.

"Graham's family came to us with some new information they had heard about on Feb. 13, 2012," Oliver said.

The new information, according to reports, was that during the fight, Smith had been the one who cut Graham's throat.

"The new information was that (Smith) came up from behind Graham and cut his throat," Oliver said.

He said the case was assigned to Holcombe and reopened.

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