| Crime |

Christopher Smith, Influential Arizona Politico, Found Shot to Death in Phoenix. Friend Says He had "Problems"

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A body found shot to death over the weekend has been identified as Christopher Smith, an influential Valley politico who once served as the chief of staff for the state Senate.

Smith, 51, was found fatally shot in his car parked in the 1000 block of 18th Avenue about 8 p.m. Saturday night.

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.

KPHO is reporting that police have one suspect in custody. However, Phoenix P.D. Sergeant Trent Crump tells New Times KPHO is wrong and no arrests have been made.

Former Senate Minority Leader Dr. Tom Patterson, who hired Smith as his chief of staff in the 1990s, told ABC 15 last night that he spoke to Smith the day he died.

"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," Patterson says. "He was full of his usual hope and optimism and determination, and I was just feeling so happy and good for him."

We were wondering what "problems" Smith was facing -- and what he was doing in that neighborhood on a Saturday night. We asked Crump if drugs could have been a factor. He would only say the motive of the shooting is still under investigation.

Check back to Valley Fever later today for updates.

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