Charles J. Smith, an 18-year-old from Cape Girardeau, has been arrested and charged with the murder of Gary Denham, a married father of two who was snuffed out by what Smith alleges was “road rage.” Smith is currently being held on a $250,000 bond.
The Jackson County, Missouri prosecutor’s office released a press statement on the shocking killing, saying:
An 18-year-old Cape Girardeau, MO, man has been charged in the fatal ‘road rage’ shooting of an Oak Grove, MO, man near his home on Interstate 70, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced tonight.
Charles J. Smith, dob: 5/18/2004, faces Murder 2nd Degree, Unlawful Use of a Weapon and two counts of Armed Criminal Action.*
According to court records, Missouri Highway Patrol officers responded to eastbound Interstate 70 near Oak Grove on Wednesday evening on a reported road rage incident. Highway Patrol officers found a green Ford pickup that had crashed into a parked car on the outer road. The driver had been shot once. He later died of his wounds at the hospital. Witnesses described a white Hyundai vehicle that had been involved in an incident with the truck. Highway Patrol responded to sitings of the vehicle and used stop sticks to disable the vehicle. The suspect fled on foot and was eventually apprehended about 9:45 p.m. The defendant told police he had been involved in an incident with the Ford that angered him and he fired a shot. He also admitted he tried to get rid of the gun.
Further, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker issued a specific statement on the horrific case, saying, “The Missouri Highway Patrol worked through the night Wednesday to ensure that the suspect in the shooting on Interstate 70 was apprehended. The community owes them a great thanks. As a result, today we have these charges in a totally needless act of violence with the highest range of punishment available under these facts. A family is now without an husband and father who was everything to them. Our roadways are necessary and busy with other travelers getting to their destinations. They must remain safe. Everyone should take note: take a breath, show some restraint, and let everyone get to their destination safely.”
Denham, the victim, was white and Smith, the alleged killer, is black.
Gary Denham is survived by his wife of 33 years and their two sons. pic.twitter.com/qBcpiAqgvD
— Southern Man (@MagicBelle1) April 22, 2023
Charging documents, describing how the alleged murder occurred, said:
On Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at approximately 1619 hours, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Oak Grove Police Department were notified of an incident that occurred on eastbound Interstate 70 at Oak Grove,
Jackson County, Missouri. A white Hyundai Elantra, bearing Florida registration, and a green Ford pickup, were reportedly involved in a road-rage incident, during which the Ford traveled off the south side of Interstate 70, entered the south outer road, and ultimately crashed into a parked vehicle at the Petro Travel Center, located at 301 SW 1st Street, Oak Grove, Missouri. Upon officers’ arrival, there was a single apparent bullet defect in the driver’s door of the Ford, and the driver of the Ford (Victim 1) was found with an apparent gunshot wound. Victim 1 subsequently died from their injuries.
Witnesses reported the suspect vehicle description and direction of travel to law enforcement. Witnesses also indicated the Ford was traveling in the right lane of Interstate 70, and the Hyundai was traveling in the left lane of Interstate 70, when the incident occurred. Witness I reported hearing a “popping noise” immediately prior to the Ford traveling off the roadway. Witness 2 reported the Hyundai was driving erratically, then overtook and struck the Ford, which caused it to travel off the roadway. White paint transfer was evident on the driver’s side truck bed of the Ford.
Shortly after the initial report, Missouri State Troopers observed the vehicle traveling eastbound on Interstate 70, in Lafayette County, Missouri. A traffic stop was attempted, however the vehicle fled, eventually stopping in a field south of Interstate 70, near the 69-mile marker, after the deployment of a tire deflation device. The driver fled on foot from the vehicle and a manhunt ensued. The driver was not located after an extensive search by ground and air. Upon inspection of the Hyundai, the front passenger window was found to be shattered.
Investigators learned the vehicle was previously involved in a traffic stop in southeast Missouri weeks prior, driven by a subject identified as Charles Smith Jr. Smith Jr. was issued a citation during that traffic stop. The citation issued to Smith Jr. was found in the suspect vehicle during a subsequent search. Smith Jr. had also been arrested by Missouri State Troopers, in Saline County, on March 27, 2023, wherein he was in possession of a firearm.
On April 20, 2023, at approximately 0617 hours, a tip was received that a subject matching Smith Jr.’s description was seen leaving a convenience store in Sweet Springs, Saline County, Missouri. Officers responded and began canvassing the area. Video surveillance was ultimately located that positively identified Smith Jr. as the suspect. At approximately 0943 hours, Smith Jr. was found hiding behind an automotive shop
A GoFundMe created for Gary Denham, the murdered father of two, says:
Gary Denham was sadly murdered by a shooter on I-70 highway in Oak Grove, MO, on April 19, 2023. This unconscionable act has taken the life of an amazing man, husband, father, brother, son, uncle, and friend to many. He had a huge heart and sense of humor, and he was the protector and hard-working provider for his family. Our family is shocked and devastated.
Married for 33 years, his wife called him her “superman” and they had a love and connection everyone envied. Wonderful parents to two sons and strong in their faith, she asks everyone to not focus on division and hate but instead on honoring Gary’s life.
We would like to help her and her boys get through this by easing their financial burden. Gary was the primary source of income and health insurance. She faces a long road of emotional and financial stress.
As this horrific story unfolds, we thank you for honoring Gary’s memory and keeping his family and friends close to your heart. Every donation is sincerely appreciated and goes directly to his widow.
Charles Smith Image Credit: Saline County Sheriff’s Department, Gary Denham image credit: Gary Denham GoFundMe
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