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| Crime |

Christopher Smith, Influential Arizona Politico Found Shot to Death, Had History With Drugs

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Christopher Smith, the former chief of staff for the state Senate found shot to death Saturday, had a history of drug use and other "bizarre" and "erratic" behavior , court records show.

We hate to say it, but we called this one -- which is why on Monday we asked Phoenix Police Sergeant Trent Crump if the murder was drug related.

Crump would only say the motive for the shooting was still under investigation.

But what was a prominent member of Arizona's political community doing in a seedy part of Phoenix on a Saturday night? Court records first obtained by the Arizona Republic shed a little light on that aspect of the bizarre murder.

The Republic did a story in 2005 called "Love Story" -- a column about Smith and his wife.

"He's truly a very good person," his wife is quoted as saying. "He's genuine and thoughtful - not just personally but in the grand scheme of things."

As the paper points out, in the last year, something changed.

From the Republic:

Records show Smith moved out of the home he'd lived in with his wife and three daughters in March. His wife stated in court documents that at that time, there had been "at least six months of erratic, bizarre, unexplained behavior" from Smith that culminated with her finding him with glass pipes, other drug paraphernalia and a large amount of pornography in their home.

Court documents mention "severe drug dependency issues" and state that "wife believes husband is so withdrawn as a result of the substance abuse that he cannot make rational decisions."

She filed for divorce in June and was granted an order of protection against Smith.

That explains the "problems" to which Former Senate Minority Leader Dr. Tom Patterson, who hired Smith as his chief of staff in the 1990s, was referring when he said "I had talked to him just the day he died, and he was, to be honest, having a few problems in his life, but he seemed to be coming out of them."

Smith, 51, was found fatally shot in his car parked in the 1000 block of 18th Avenue about 8 p.m. Saturday night -- not exactly the greatest part of town.

Police were already in the area responding to an unrelated incident when they heard gun shots. They responded to where they heard the shots and found Smith shot in the head sitting in his Nissan.

Witnesses told cops they saw people running from the area of 18th Avenue and Buckeye Road after the shooting.

No arrests have been made in connection to the murder.

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