News & Politics

Virginia Murder Suspect Tries Will Smith-Inspired Defense

William Reno Ray has confessed to two murders. His attorney says he snapped "like Will Smith"

Photograph via iStock.

The suspect in two grisly 2020 murders has something in common with Academy Award-winning actor Will Smith, his attorney told a court in Roanoke, Virginia, Tuesday. As Mike Gangloff reports for the Roanoke Times:

Defense attorney Dirk Padgett of Roanoke compared his client’s actions to Smith’s assault on Chris Rock during Sunday night’s Academy Awards presentation. He urged jurors to ask themselves if they had ever reached a point where they had just “snapped.“

“Things you wouldn’t ordinarily do you do — like Will Smith,” Padgett said.

The court had already heard that William Reno Ray confessed to the murders of his fiancé’s mother and her boyfriend in March 2020. Authorities say he stabbed Eric Surface 20 times and drowned April Barnicoat in a bathtub.

Prosecutor John McNeil, Gangloff reports, “replied with the well-worn legal saying that a lawyer can argue the law or the facts, or if neither are on the attorney’s side, can just argue louder.”


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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.