Story last updated at 3:13 p.m. Thursday, September 26, 2002

Witness tests memory in double-murder trial
By Phil Hermanek
Morris News Service-Alaska

The attorney defending accused murderer Billy D. Smith Tuesday blasted a state witness' ability to remember details about the crime when he assisted investigating authorities.

The witness, Dennis "Ray J" Johnson, testified he drove Smith to the murder scene in North Kenai where Harold Enzler, 36, of Nikiski, and Nancy Bellamy, 42, of Homer, were shot to death March 27, 1994. Their bodies were never found.

Then, more than three years later, while Smith was in an Anchorage jail on other charges, he reportedly confessed to the crimes. According to defense attorney Robert Herz, Smith only did so in order to get out of jail to get a heroin fix.

Testifying Tuesday, Johnson was asked by assistant district attorney John Wolfe what was going on March 27, 1994.

"There was a hell of a party going on at my house ... in North Kenai ... Nikiski.

"Billy (Smith) showed up and said he needed someone to watch his back during a drug deal.

"I said, 'Yeah, OK.'"

Johnson said the two then headed out in Smith's truck to Escape Route road. Smith told Johnson that Bruce Brown was bringing Enzler and Bellamy and that Smith said he was going to kill them.

"I've heard lots of people say they were going to kill someone.

"Then Smith said if I didn't want to be part of this, I could get out.

"He told me he was worried about Bruce Brown -- if he was going to cross him," Johnson said.

"Did Smith have a gun?" Wolfe asked.

"Yes. A nine-m-m," Johnson said.

Asked if Smith said why he planned to kill Enzler and Bellamy, Johnson said Smith told him, "Harold was making up a snitch list about people selling dope and he said something about a child custody thing."

Continuing his account of what happened the night of the murders, Johnson said he was hiding behind a snow berm, and he saw Brown drive up with Enzler and Bellamy. Then he saw Smith hurriedly approach their truck.

"He yelled (profanity) and then I heard four shots.

"I took off running," Johnson said.

"Why did you run?" asked Wolfe.

"'Cause I was scared s-------. I never seen people get shot and killed before," Johnson said.

He told the court he quickly became cold and exhausted trying to run in three feet of snow and he made his way back to the road where Smith picked him up.

"Why did you get back in the truck?" Wolfe asked.

"Because I was cold, and he knew where I lived anyway," Johnson said.

He said Smith then told him that Smith and Brown moved the bodies from Enzler's truck into Smith's.

"Then what happened?" asked Wolfe.

"I went back to my house and got real drunk."

Johnson testified that two or three days later, he drove Smith to where Smith had stashed the bodies.

He came back to the truck after about an hour and the two of them took off, Johnson said.

"He said he dismembered the bodies -- he stripped them -- and that there was very little blood."

"Did he say how he dismembered them?" asked Wolfe.

"With a double-edged ax."

A few days later, according to Johnson, he and Smith retrieved the bodies, now in about eight black, plastic garbage bags, drove down toward Homer, disposed of clothing and personal effects in a Dumpster along the way and loaded the bags into Smith's boat.

They launched the boat into Kachemak Bay and headed to Cook Inlet and dumped the bodies in "20 to 30 fathoms of water," according to Johnson.

About a week later, he said he was contacted to help get rid of Enzler's truck by cutting it into pieces with a cutting torch. The truck parts were dumped in various locations around the Kenai Peninsula, he said.

He also said Smith brought the 9mm gun to Johnson's house and asked him to bury it in his basement, which he did.

Then a few days later, Smith returned to get the gun so he could dispose of it himself.

Johnson said he was charged in 1998 with two counts of murder and 17 counts of tampering with evidence, but that he made a deal with prosecutors, eventually pleading guilty to dismantling the truck. He was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation.

Herz questioned Johnson about his dating and alcohol and drug use during the three to four years he knew Smith, and Johnson told of drinking half gallons of tequila over two- to three-day periods and using a couple of grams of cocaine a day.

Herz asked Johnson about blackouts he experienced during that period, and Johnson said he had about one per month.

"When you drank that much alcohol your memory was not that good," said Herz.

"Some things stick with you," Johnson said.

"It's like the difference between seeing a sparrow pluck a bug out of the sky or an eagle getting sucked into a turbo-prop.

" Some things stick better," he said.

Herz asked Johnson to recall specifics about his arrest in May 1998, about specifics of his indictment at the time and about specifics relating to tampering with the truck evidence.

"When you were speaking with troopers and the district attorney in June 1998, you understood you were going to get a deal, right?" asked Herz.

"I was going to testify to the truth," Johnson said.

"You told them that on March 27, 1994, you were pretty wasted," said Herz.

"That was the truth," Johnson said.

Herz then pointed to three times Johnson told his account of what happened the night of the murder, saying sometimes Johnson heard the shots then ran, and at other times he said he heard the shots after he already had been running.

"Then you're saying the state is tampering with the tape you made?" asked Herz.

"Something's wrong," Johnson said.

"I'll tell you what's wrong: your memory's no good, Mr. Johnson," Herz shouted.

Testimony is scheduled to continue this morning in Judge Jonathan Link's courtroom in Kenai.

Phil Hermanek is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.