Clock stopped, for now, in Norwich cold case

The court case of Gregory "Biscuit" Smith, accused of taking part in the murder of Sean Hill in Norwich in June 2006, is on hold while the New London public defender's office checks into a potential conflict of interest and discusses with Smith his option of having a probable cause hearing.

The Southeastern Connecticut Cold Case Unit in August charged Smith, 28, and Bruce Gathers, 30, with the fatal shooting of Hill, who was 19.

Public Defender Bruce A. Sturman said Monday that his office, which had been appointed to represent Smith, may have a conflict of interest. He asked Judge Patrick J. Clifford for a two-week continuance to investigate. Sturman said also that he was discussing with Smith the option of having a probable cause hearing. Under state law, murder defendants have 60 days to decide whether they want a hearing at which the state would attempt to convince a judge there is enough evidence to prosecute the case. Clifford continued the case to Oct. 18 after explaining to Smith that the 60-day time period has been running, but the "clock would be stopped" during the two-week continuance.

Gathers and Smith had been convicted in 2008 of robbing Justin "Jay" Smith just moments before Hill, who was with Smith and others that night at 60 Boswell Ave., was fatally shot in the abdomen.

Though Gathers and Smith were suspects in the June 2006 murder, prosecutors told police they needed more evidence. As the investigation continued, the witnesses revealed more information, police said. One witness said Gathers and Hill were "tussling and wrestling with each other" before he heard a gunshot and saw Hill bent over, holding his stomach.

Gathers, who is incarcerated on unrelated charges in New Jersey, is expected to be returned to Connecticut at some point and to be served with the murder warrant.

Smith remained incarcerated on the robbery charge when he was served with a murder warrant on Aug. 24.

- Karen Florin

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