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Inmate accused of hiring undercover cop to kill witnesses in murder case

Justin Smith | Chicago Police

A Cook County Jail inmate has been accused of hiring an undercover police officer to kill three witnesses tied to the murder case he was previously charged in.

Justin Smith, 32, has been held at the jail since he was charged last year with the 2016 murder of 27-year-old Richard Porter.

Smith pleaded not guilty when he was indicted on six counts of murder, according to court records.

On Jan. 7, Smith, while at the jail, “communicated a desire to get rid of some witnesses in his pending case,” Cook County prosecutors said in court Thursday. An undercover police officer then made contact with Smith at the jail while wearing a wire.

On Jan. 19, Smith told the undercover officer he would pay $5,000 for the murder of three witnesses tied to Porter’s deadly shooting, according to prosecutors. Smith allegedly provided their nicknames, along with information about where they lived and how to find them on Facebook.

Prosecutors said Smith told the officer the witnesses “needed to disappear.”

On Tuesday, the officer showed Smith Facebook photos of the witnesses and Smith confirmed he wanted them “disposed of,” prosecutors said. The officer told Smith that one of the witnesses might have been living with other family members. Smith allegedly said he still wanted that person killed. The officer told him it would take about a week for the job to be completed, prosecutors said.

Smith was charged with three counts of solicitation of murder and three counts of solicitation of murder for hire.

Porter was found face down on a sidewalk in the 7300 block of South Maplewood in November 2016 with a fatal gunshot wound to his head, according to authorities.

Prosecutors Thursday said that the three witnesses were in a car with Porter when he went to Smith’s home to retrieve a cellphone he left  behind during an earlier drug deal.

When Porter approached, Smith, armed with a handgun, threw the phone to the ground, prosecutors said. Porter was walking back to the car when Smith shot him one at close range, prosecutors said.

An assistant public defender said Smith has several children and had been working in a warehouse before his arrest.

Judge David Navarro ordered Smith held without bond on the new charges. “This is an offense that strikes at the heart of the justice system,” the judge said.

Smith’s next court date is on Feb. 20.