Federal prosecutors charged three West Virginia residents Tuesday with obstructing justice, lying to investigators and other federal counts related to a February shootout that killed a deputy U.S. marshal and the fugitive he had sought to arrest.
Derek Hotsinpiller was only 24 and just embarking on his law enforcement career when he became the first deputy U.S. marshal killed by gunfire in 19 years. Thousands of mourners led by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder attended his funeral after the Feb. 16 shootout in Elkins.
Two other colleagues of the slain marshal were injured while trying to serve the warrant at the Elkins home of fugitive Charles E. Smith, who had been wanted on drug charges.
U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld and other federal officials gathered in that same town to announce they have charged two of Smith's relatives _ the fugitive's 49-year-old widow, Sherry Lou Smith, and his 25-year-old daughter, Cassandra Smith. The 14-count indictment also named Cassandra Smith's boyfriend, 23-year-old Anthony Lambert of Montrose.
The indictment alleges the defendants conspired to obstruct justice, made false statements to law enforcement officers on the day of the shooting and afterward, lied to obtain a firearm illegally, owned an illegal machine gun and were accessories after the fact.
All three were arrested Tuesday and taken to U.S. Magistrate Court in Elkins for an initial appearance. It was not immediately clear whether they have attorneys. A message left for Sherry Smith was not immediately returned, and a listing for Lambert went unanswered.
Investigators say Sherry Smith bought a shotgun at a sporting goods store in July 2007, claiming it was for her and knowing it was intended for someone else. The indictment says she, her daughter and Lambert also conspired to obstruct the marshals' efforts to locate Charles Smith from March 2010 through February 2011.
If convicted, authorities say, each faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the obstruction charges; 10 years on the accessory charge; 10 years for lying about the gun purchase and possessing a machine gun; and five years for conspiracy to obstruct justice and lying to investigators.
The marshals were wearing protective vests when they entered the Smith house, but Hotsinpiller was shot in the neck and doctors couldn't save his life after he was rushed into surgery in Morgantown.
Hotsinpiller, who grew up in Bridgeport, went to work in the Clarksburg office of the Marshals Service last year after graduating from the U.S. Marshals Academy in Georgia.
At his funeral in Bridgeport, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service had noted there are three words inscribed on the silver circle of a U.S. marshal's badge: Justice, integrity and service.
"Derek not only believed in those words," said Director Stacia Hylton. "He lived them every day."