Detectives: Columbus man identified his killer days before he was found shot to death

Detectives: Columbus man identified his killer days before he was found shot to death

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - According to Columbus investigators, local business owner William "Kirby" Smith warned his family of impending danger shortly before he was gunned down ten years ago.

"Kirby had told people leading up to his death that if something happened to him look at Rebecca for the cause," CPD detective Sgt. Matt Blackstock said.

Rebecca Haynie and Donald Phillips are held without bond in the Muscogee County Jail for the 2004 slaying of Haynie's estranged husband 50-year-old William Kirby Smith.

The pair plead not guilty to murder in a preliminary hearing on Friday, June 6.

Authorities believe money was the motive.

"Rebecca had already told others that she was not going to get any money in the divorce, because Kirby had so much against her," Sgt. Blackstock testified.

The pair were in a rancorous divorce, according to Blackstock, that erupted in violence on March 7, 2004.

Police believe a 9mm handgun was used to shoot Smith once in the head and torso. Sgt. Blackstock said he died instantly. Smith's body was discovered the next day in the office of his auto shop "Kirby's Speed Shop" on Jacqueline Dr. in Columbus.

According to detectives, Smith had a large amount of money on him and the office safe, which was full of money and guns, was untouched.

"There were no signs of forced entry into the business, robbery did not appear to be the clear motive," Blackstock declared.

Detectives testified Haynie were fighting over money, property, and the couple's son.

A family member we spoke with after the hearing, who asks to remain anonymous, told us Smith had a $250,000 insurance policy.

"Investigators learned that Rebecca had talked to her boyfriend, Heath Haynie, about hiring someone to kill Kirby," Blackstock testified.

That's where Donald Keith Phillips comes into play, according to authorities.

"All evidence indicates that Keith Phillips would do anything for Rebecca, even kill for her," said Blackstock.

After their arrest, Phillips admitted to having an intimate relationship with Haynie. Although at the time, she was still married to Smith, and dating Heath Haynie whom she married shortly after Smith's death, according to police.

Rebecca Haynie denied that she and Phillips had a sexual relationship.

Police believed Rebecca Haynie and Phillips were able to pinpoint Smith by his online activity. Investigators testified, the estranged couple shared a AOL account that allowed them to see when the other was online.

Rebecca Haynie became even more enraged when she learned Smith had opened an account on, and was conversing with her boyfriend's ex-wife, Blackstock testified.

Rebecca Haynie maintained her innocence, choosing not to speak during the hearing. She stared intently straight ahead as detectives spoke about her whereabouts that night.

Haynie worked as a nurse at the time. On the night of the murder, she was called into work at a hospital in Warm Springs for an emergency Caesarean Section.

Blackstock said he later learned she had the ability to set her own schedule giving her the opportunity to cover her tracks.

"Witnesses have said they heard Phillips and Haynie arguing at her home on Edgewood Road, and as he was leaving she screamed, 'I just want to be happy'," Sgt. Blackstock testified.

Phillips reportedly told investigators he left Rebecca Haynie's home around 8:45 the night of the murder, heading to the Taco Bell on Veterans Pkwy to grab food. Once there, detectives said Phillips called Haynie using a pay phone instead of his cellphone which seemed odd.

Using cellphone records to map out the time, detectives testified between the drive to Taco Bell and the phone call Phillips made around 9:30 p.m., the timing of it all did not add up.

'He had the time to commit the crime," Sgt. Long said.

No shell casings, fingerprints, or eye witnesses have been found, according to investigator testimony.

Both Phillips and Haynie's attorneys said police did not have any concrete evidence linking the pair to the crime.

"There's circumstantial evidence to who the people are, and what their relationships are, but I still have not heard one piece of circumstantial evidence that would say that Mr. Phillips actually killed Mr. Kirby," Martin said after the hearing.

Martin said Phillips maintains his innocence.

Haynie's attorney, Mike Reynolds, said the evidence against her has been insufficient since the beginning.

"Like me, they don't understand what's different in 2014 than what was happening in 2004. And I didn't hear anything in the context of this hearing today that was any different. The strength of their case in 2004 is the same as it is in 2014," Reynolds said after the hearing.

Reynolds said he planned to meet with Martin about the case to discuss future plans.

They both plan to seek bonds for Rebecca Haynie and Phillips in the near future. The case will now head to Superior Court.

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