By Sharon Stone
Groveland Twp. — During a pretrial Jan. 11, a 31-year-old Holly man pleaded no contest to charges involving torture and homicide of a 3-year-old girl. He faces life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 1 p.m.
Samual Lester Smart had been bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court for a jury trial and remained lodged at the Oakland County Jail since his arrest after bond was denied.
He had initially been charged Jan. 4, 2021 with torture and first-degree child abuse following the death of a 3-year-old girl. On June 25, 2021, a charge of homicide (felony murder) was added during his preliminary exam.
The charges stem from a Michigan State Police (MSP) Metro North Post investigation into the Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 death of Trinity Chandler of Groveland Township. Smart was the live-in boyfriend of Justine Comstock, Trinity’s mother. They lived at Groveland Manor.
Comstock was the first witness to testify at the preliminary exam. She testified on June 25, 2021, that Smart was her boyfriend of one-and-a-half years and that he was not the father of Trinity. He moved in with Comstock and Trinity in July 2020. Comstock said Trinity prior to her death was in good health. The young girl wore eyeglasses.
Comstock said she worked as a caregiver for the elderly overnight and Smart would drive her to and from work and watch Trinity when she was working. Smart was not working a job as of October 2020. “It was a good relationship up until the end,” she said.
On Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, Comstock said Smart drove her to work for her 7 p.m. shift in the van owned by Smart’s father. Comstock testified that she called Smart at 6 a.m. to come pick her up from work. At 6:30 a.m., she said Smart called her and said that Trinity was unresponsive. She said she could hear panic in his voice. She said she told him to call 911 or take her to the hospital. He took Trinity to the Holly Fire Department for help. Smart’s father rode with Trinity to Ascension Genesys Hospital while Smart drove and picked up Comstock so that they could both go to the hospital.
By the time Comstock saw Trinity, the young girl was deceased.
Comstock testified that at 10:25 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2020, Trinity and Smart were together at her home.
State police obtained a search warrant to get and unlock Smart’s phone. Det. Sarah Markel of the Detroit Police Department Homicide Division testified that she was able to use advanced software that would extract a two-minute video on Smart’s phone that he had deleted. The software determined the date stamp for the video was 10:25 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2020.
The prosecutor placed a laptop on the judge’s desk during the preliminary exam and played the video for the judge and attorneys. Those watching the hearing live streamed on YouTube could not see the video, but could hear it. There were sounds of a child crying, as well as music playing in the background.
The detective testified that Smart said he’d be going to prison and that his life was over. The detective said Smart admitted to rough-housing too hard with Trinity.
Dr. John Bechinski of the Genesee County Medical Examiner’s Office testified that Trinity appeared to have been a normal 36-pound 3-year-old. Bechinski testified that the two-minute video extracted from Smart’s phone correlated to the injuries found on Trinity. He said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the chest. The medical examiner said the type of injury to Trinity’s chest occurred several days before her death. The doctor said the manner of Trinity’s death was homicide.
“The pressure on the child’s chest was enough to damage the heart,” he said. “It was consistent with what was on the video.”
By Sharon Stone