Man charged with murder in death of Wayne County inmate awaiting extradition
Detroit — A 38-year-old Oak Park man being held at the Wayne County Jail faces two felony homicide charges in the death of Antonio James, a 29-year-old fellow inmate who was two days from extradition to Ohio last year.
Carl Smelley Jr. has been charged with manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter in the Oct. 23 incident.
Information on when he will be arraigned was not immediately available, but Smelley has been behind bars since early October.
At an Oct. 15 court hearing, an extradition order for James was signed by Wayne Circuit Judge Deborah Thomas, allowing James to be sent to Ohio, where he faced a number of charges.
He would never make it.
At 3:24 a.m. Oct. 23, James was found unresponsive in his cell. He died of blunt force trauma to the head, said the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office. There were bite marks on his left arm and the right side of his neck.
Police said he had been involved in a fight with a 37-year-old inmate in the jail's Division 2 facility at 525 Clinton, the oldest of the three jail properties.
Smelley, who turned 38 this month, had been jailed since Oct. 9 after being arrested for allegedly carrying a concealed weapon. He would be charged with three felonies in that incident — carrying a concealed weapon, being a felon in possession of a weapon, and felony firearm — and in January he pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon, in return for two charges being dropped, court records show.
Smelley has served two prison sentences. One was for unarmed robbery and the other for assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer. Both incidents took place in Oakland County, Michigan Department of Corrections records show.
Last month, he was sentenced to two years of probation, one of them to be served in jail, where he remains.
But less than two weeks into his jail tenure, there was the alleged fight with James. The incident left the 29-year-old man dead just two days before he would've been extradited to Ohio to face drug charges.
James faced three felony drug counts between two cases in Ohio, one requiring mandatory prison time if convicted, said Paula Sawyers, a spokeswoman for the Licking County (Ohio) Prosecutor's Office.
Ultimately a bail bondswoman in Ohio located James at the Wayne County Jail via an internet search and alerted authorities in Licking County.
He had recently finished a two-year probation period, following a plea deal in Wayne County.
But between the start of his probation in March 2017 and his extradition order, James was charged with five felonies, covering three cases, in Licking County.
The Michigan Department of Corrections said a violation of a probation warrant was issued against James in January 2018 after the department learned of a September 2017 arrest in Ohio for driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and speeding.
"It does not appear the MDOC was made aware of any additional criminal charges he was facing out of Ohio," said Holly Kramer, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. "We would have filed an amended warrant if that had been the case."
Sawyers told The News she "didn't believe (Licking County) was aware" that James was on probation in Michigan when warrants for his arrest were issued in Ohio.
A search of law enforcement databases, conducted in spring 2019, months after a warrant for his arrest was issued in April, did not list James as a jail or prison inmate, Sawyers said.
Candace Reeder of AA Craven Bail Bonds in Utica, Ohio, had a $50,000 bond guarantee riding on James' appearance in court. Reeder found James in the Wayne County Jail during a search of the Vinelink jail database, she said. She alerted the Licking County authorities, who began the extradition process.
Reeder described James, who stood 6 feet tall and weighed 216 pounds at the time of his death, as being "made of muscle," and wondered how someone could have done him that much harm.
Smelley, according to Michigan Department of Corrections records, is 6 foot 3 inches tall and 240 pounds.
The Licking County Sheriff's Office contracted a Nashville-based inmate transportation firm, Prisoner Transportation Services, to handle James's extradition, Capt. Tom Brown said last year.
A spokesman for PTS said that when the company called the Wayne County Jail on Oct. 23 to offer its customary heads-up 48 hours before the pickup, it learned James had died.