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Murder charges filed in 1984 cold case in S.E. Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – Murder charges have been filed in a 1984 cold case in southeastern Oklahoma.

Johnny Smith was killed on June 28th, 1984 during his shift at the K.C.S. Lumber Company in Idabel.

On the day of the murder, four witnesses said they heard a gunshot and then saw a man erratically driving a front-end loader, which belonged to the lumber company, past them.

Several minutes later, the witnesses told police that the same man drove a truck in the opposite direction and out of the gate of the lumber yard.

Three of those witnesses reportedly identified Ernest Lewis as the man driving both vehicles.

Officials at the lumber company said Lewis left work abruptly after claiming a family emergency shortly before Smith’s body was found.

The probable cause affidavit filed in McCurtain County says blood spatter was collected form a front-end loader bucket and rocks near Smith’s body, during the initial investigation in 1984.

At the time, investigators also collected a bullet casing that matched a gun owned by Lewis’ mother.

Lewis was originally charged for the murder in 1985.

However, the case was dismissed because of lack of evidence.

With evidence and leads exhausted, the case went cold.

In 2011, Smith’s body was exhumed and samples from his remains were tested against blood collected from the original crime scene.

The samples from the crime scene matched the DNA taken from the exhumed body, with the chances of another individual possessing the same DNA being one in 388,000.

The samples were analyzed and identified by forensic experts with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (OSBI).

Additionally, agents with the OSBI and District 17 District Attorney Mark Matloff’s office assisted in the investigation to move the case forward.

Officials now believe there is enough evidence to convict Lewis for Smith’s murder.

Attorney General Mike Hunter has filed a first degree murder charge against Lewis.

“The Criminal Justice Division was created to handle the most challenging cases in the state,” Attorney General Hunter said. “This case in particular daunted investigators and prosecutors alike. But ultimately their dedication and persistence solved the case.”

Lewis, now 65, is currently in a Colorado prison.

Ernest Lewis, mugshot from Colorado Department of Corrections