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Fourth Quincy Teen Accussed In Slayings Of Pleads Innocent

Sat., July 26, 1997

A 16-year-old girl pleaded innocent Friday to charges that she helped teenage friends plan the slayings of an elderly Quincy couple.

Melanie Hinkle pleaded innocent in Grant County Superior Court to two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree burglary by complicity, Prosecutor John Knodell said.

On Thursday, a judge ruled Hinkle - who turned 16 on Monday - will be tried in adult court in the May 21 shooting deaths of Homer and Vada Smithson in their Quincy home.

Judge Evan Sperline declined to prosecute Hinkle in juvenile court after reading police reports and reports from psychiatrists hired by the defense and prosecution, Knodell said.

A Sept. 3 trial date was scheduled for the Quincy girl, who is being held in juvenile detention.

A co-defendant, 15-year-old Donald Lambert, agreed Tuesday to be tried as an adult and also faces a Sept. 3 trial. It hasn’t been decided if Hinkle and Lambert will be tried separately, Knodell said.

Meanwhile, prosecutors will try to work out plea agreements for both defendants, Knodell said.

“I would say that may very well happen in Hinkle’s case, but probably not in Lambert’s,” he said.

Lambert is charged with two counts of aggravated firstdegree murder and faces a life prison sentence without parole if convicted.

Two other defendants, Marcus “David” Wawers, 15, and Adam Betancourt, 16, already have pleaded guilty and indicated they would testify against the others.

Wawers pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder. The 15-year-old consented as part of a plea agreement to have his case handled in adult court.

Betancourt pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. Because Betancourt is 16, his case was automatically remanded to adult court.

The Smithsons, 89-year-old Homer and 88-year-old Vada, apparently were shot as part of a scheme to steal guns from their home and shoot up the home of an unidentified police officer, authorities have said.

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