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Here's everything we know so far about the Will Smith murder case

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These are the facts and the actors of the current murder investigation of the former Saints star defensive lineman.

New Orleans Saints v St. Louis Rams Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS -- There have been a multitude of factors surrounding the death of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith. At Thursday's preliminary hearing, the court will hear evidence collected by New Orleans police in the investigation as well as testimony from witnesses to make a determination about what evidence would be admissible in a trial. The hearing will also determine whether there's probable cause to keep Hayes in custody prior to his trial. However, the hearing could be cancelled if a grand jury hands down an indictment prior to the scheduled 10 a.m. CT start time.

Update: Around 1 p.m., Hayes was indicted on a second degree murder charge for the shooting of Will Smith and an attempted second degree murder charge for shooting Smith's wife, Racquel.

This is what we know about the case so far.

The Shooting

Police said the shooting transpired around 11:30 p.m. on April 9. The incident involved former prep football star Cardell Hayes, the shooter, Smith and his 33-year-old wife Racquel Smith at the intersection of Sophie Wright Place and Felicity Street following a collision of both men's vehicles.

Prior to the shooting -- New Orleans' 31st murder this year -- Smith and his wife were dining at Sake Cafe on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans with former Saints running back Pierre Thomas and former New Orleans Police officer Billy Ceravolo.

The New Orleans Parish coroner, Jeffrey Rouse, said Smith's death has "preliminarily been classified as a homicide." An early autopsy revealed Will Smith was shot eight times, twice in the left upper back, twice in the mid-left back and three times in the lower back, according to a statement from Rouse. The final bullet hit Smith in his left lateral chest wall.

A toxicology report and analysis is also being conducted, but won't be available for a few more weeks.

Racquel Smith was shot once in each leg. Her injuries have been described as non-life threatening.

Hayes, 28, stayed on the scene until the New Orleans Police Department arrived and identified himself as the shooter. He was booked in Orleans Parish jail, is being held on a $1 million bond and has been charged with second-degree murder. .


Following the shooting, NOPD executed a search warrant on two of the three vehicles (a Chevrolet Impala was struck after Hayes' Hummer hit Smith's Mercedes. The car contained friends of Smith who spoke to police).

Police uncovered a .45-caliber handgun from the scene believed to be in Hayes' possession at the time of the shooting. NOPD also found bullet casings at the crime scene that matched to the weapon. As part of the investigation, police detained all three vehicles. NOPD detectives also found a fully loaded revolver inside Hayes' vehicle.

That same search warrant was used on Smith's Mercedes truck and a 9-millimeter handgun was discovered inside the vehicle. Police said ballistic evidence showed neither the revolver nor Smith's handgun was fired.

During the course of the investigation, NOPD said they have obtained video from neighborhood surveillance cameras and are reviewing that video and obtaining additional video as part of the investigation.


Will Smith, 34: Smith, born in Utica, N.Y., was shot dead by Cardell Hayes in early April. He's a former defensive end for the Saints. Smith was a national champion at Ohio State in 2002 and was a Super Bowl champion with the Saints in 2009 following Hurricane Katrina. He played for the squad for 10 seasons, leading the team in sacks over a four-year period from 2005-09 and recording the fourth-most sacks in franchise history. He's been voted, unanimously, to the Saints Hall of Fame.

In 2010, Lafayette, La., police arrested Smith and charged him with public intoxication and domestic abuse battery after allegedly dragging his wife by the hair outside a Louisiana nightclub. The charges were dropped two years later at the request of his wife.

In September 2011, the NFL suspended Smith for two games without pay for his involvement in the StarCaps case where he violated the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs by taking the banned diuretic.

In 2012, Smith and three other Saints were suspended -- though it was eventually lifted -- for their role in the BountyGate scandal. The NFL alleged that the Saints paid players bonuses for targeting and injuring other players.

Will and Racquel Smith married in 2008. He leaves behind his wife and three children.

Cardell Hayes, 28
Courtesy of Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office via

Cardell Hayes, 28: Hayes is the known shooter of Smith. He shot Smith eight times. He's been charged with second-degree murder. Hayes was one of the top prep football players in the state of Louisiana in 2004. He was also an extra in the movie 22 Jump Street. Nicknamed "Bear," Hayes was playing for the Gridiron Developmental Football League as recently as last year.

Rumors have swirled around the Internet that Hayes used to work security for the Saints and that he and Smith may know each other, but the franchise claimed that was false.

Hayes had a decorated football career at Warren Easton Charter High School as a 280-pound defensive tackle. Rivals pegged Michigan State as the school with the highest interest in him. Scout had him as one of Louisiana's 50 best players in 2004. The Associated Press noted he attended Southeastern Louisiana University but didn't play football there.

In December 2005, Hayes' father, 38-year-old Anthony Hayes, was shot nine times and killed by NOPD. One of the officers involved was Ceravolo, a former NOPD commander. Police said Anthony Hayes had a knife in his hand. Police surrounded him and used pepper spray before eventually killing him, according to the Associated Press.

Hayes and a sibling filed lawsuits for $4 million against the city of New Orleans, noting that officers used excessive force against a man with mental health issues. The city settled the lawsuits out of court in September 2011.

Prior to the lawsuit being settled, Hayes was charged with possessing codeine and drug paraphernalia, and illegally carrying a weapon while possessing an illegal drug, according to the AP.

There was originally a plea bargain for Hayes in 2012 after a judge sentenced him to five years in prison. Hayes received a suspended six-month sentence after he pleaded guilty to the charges.

John Fuller, 42: Fuller is one of New Orleans' most prominent and successful criminal defense lawyers in recent history and will be manning the defense for Hayes. Since 2010, Fuller has run his own law firm. Fuller is known to use his closing arguments with the same audible screeches and emotions as a church preacher.

Fuller, a Georgia native, is a very vocal Atlanta Falcons fan. He did undergrad at Jackson State University and earned his law degree from Loyola University's law school. He began working as a public defender in 2001. He's been held in contempt of court before when a judge reportedly told him he needs to "watch his mouth."

Cardell Hayes (left) and Kevin O'Neal (right) being removed from their vehicle following Smith's shooting

Kevin O'Neal, 30: O'Neal was the other passenger in Hayes' Hummer the night he killed Smith. O'Neal and Hayes were high school football teammates a decade ago and played together in a semi-pro football league. He was also highly touted by college coaches and was on Scout's top 50 in Louisiana list. Rivals wrote a profile on him in 2004.

O'Neal is claiming, through media reports, that Hayes' actions -- shooting Smith -- may have saved his life that night in April.

Billy Ceravolo: A former NOPD captain, Ceravolo was at Sake Cafe with Smith before he was killed. Ceravolo was also one of the officers who shot and killed Hayes' father and was named in the subsequent lawsuit against the city.

Pending the investigation into Smith's death, Ceravolo was removed from the NOPD's reserve status, according to He has also hired a defense attorney since his removal, though his lawyer said she wasn't expecting any criminal allegations against Ceravolo.

Pierre Thomas, 31: Thomas, a former running back for the Saints and close friend of Smith's not only dined with Smith prior to his death, he was a witness at the crime where Smith died.

Like Ceravolo, he's been subpoenaed by Hayes' attorney's to appear at the preliminary hearing on Thursday, according to TV station WDSU. It isn't known whether Thomas will appear at the hearing or not. Thomas, following the death of Smith, posted a tribute to Smith on Instagram.

Thomas and Smith were teammates from 2007-13.

Peter Thompson: Thompson is the family lawyer for Smith and will be representing his side of the story. Thompson has been out in front of the case, negating nearly everything Fuller has said.

Thompson alleges that Smith's wife, Racquel, was shot first during their April 9 scuffle. Thompson has also said that the accused killer, Hayes, has presented "lies and factual distortions" about the incident. He's also said that Smith was licensed to have a concealed weapon, though he never got a chance to take it out of the console in his SUV.

Thompson has said that Hayes followed Smith and his wife to their vehicle after an argument when Smith's wife tried to alleviate the situation, which led to her being shot.

Harry Cantrell: The judge presiding over the preliminary hearing on Thursday and the elected magistrate of New Orleans Parish. Cantrell will decide if there is cause to hold Hayes, who is still booked in Orleans Parish Prison.

Cantrell has said that he will "maintain the jurisdiction of this case until the time of the indictment." Cantrell, who runs his own law firm, was on the hook to the Internal Revenue Services in 2014 for $600,000, after spending a decade fighting a tax bill. In his 2001 tax return, he listed his income around $1.5 million.

Racquel Smith: Wife of Will Smith, shot twice and is currently still hospitalized with non-life threatening conditions.