NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It was more than seven years from the time Ernest Smith, 38, died outside his New Orleans home in the spring of 2006 until his widow was arrested and charged in his death, but she had been on police radar early on.
"Please be advised that the beneficiary, Emma Smith, wife of the deceased, cannot be ruled out as a suspect in the death of Ernest Smith," a New Orleans detective wrote to an insurance investigation company in a July 12, 2006, letter.
By the time Emma Smith was arrested in that case in 2013, she had a new name, Emma Raine, and was, again, a widow. Her third husband, James Raine, 37, was shot to death at the couple's Pearl River County, Mississippi, home in 2011.
Emma Raine was out of town at the time, but authorities still had suspicions.
"She is a suspect in that James Raine case," Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison said in a 2015 interview.
"And through investigating that case we were able to get some information that New Orleans needed and passed it on to them," Allison added.
No arrests have been reported in James Raine's death. Emma Raine has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Ernest Smith. Jury selection began Tuesday and opening statements could begin Wednesday in New Orleans. Conviction would mean a mandatory life sentence for the 52-year-old woman.
Court documents and testimony in an earlier trial make clear that James Raine also was under suspicion in Ernest Smith's death. His adoptive brother, Alfred T. Everette, was charged with being the trigger man in Smith's death. He was convicted of second-degree murder late last year after prosecutors said he had been promised — by James and Emma Raine — $10,000 from an $800,000 life insurance benefit. His appeal is pending at the state Supreme Court.
Jurors may also hear testimony about the death of Emma Raine's first husband, Leroy Evans, who died while hospitalized in 1994 after having been hit by a car. No arrests were ever reported in that case but, during Everette's trial, prosecutors said the death was suspicious.