John Creech, the convicted drug dealer charged with murdering Fox executive Gavin Smith, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Los Angeles.
Outside the downtown L.A. courtroom, Creech’s attorney told reporters that his client was acting in self-defense and was in “mutual combat” with Smith.
Creech is currently serving an eight-year jail sentence after pleading no contest to one count of sale or transportation for the sale of a controlled substance in a separate case in September 2012.
Smith went missing after he was seen leaving a female friend’s house in Ventura County on May 1, 2012. His black Mercedes Benz 420E was found in a storage unit in February 2013, and investigators zeroed in on Creech after the storage unit was connected to him.
In May 2014, two years after his disappearance, Smith was officially declared dead. As TheWrap previously reported, Smith’s body was discovered on Oct. 26 in a rural area of Palmdale, California. His remains were found in a shallow grave by a man walking with his dog, authorities said, and subsequently identified as the 57-year-old executive.
Creech was charged in January. If convicted in the murder case, he faces 25 years to life in state prison.
“His death has left a huge void in our lives that will never be filled,” said Smith’s widow Lisa Smith in a statement Thursday. “And have no doubt, the evidence will clearly show this was a cold blooded, premeditated act of murder.”
Creech is due back in court on Mar. 26 to set a date for his preliminary hearing.
Read the full statement from the Smith family below.
It has been over two and a half years since the disappearance of my husband, Gavin, and the pain my family has suffered in that time has been incomprehensible. His death has left a huge void in our lives that will never be filled. And have no doubt, the evidence will clearly show this was a cold blooded, premeditated act of murder.
We are so grateful for the detectives and forensic experts who have worked tirelessly to solve this case and have confidence that our legal system will bring justice for Gavin and all of the people who love him.
As our family continues to live with the agonizing reality of Gavin’s violent death, we will look to God for strength. At the same time, we are so thankful for the many people who are helping us every day to deal with this devastating tragedy.
Please respect our privacy in this extremely difficult time.