Johnstown man taken into custody for parole violation – just weeks after release from prison

Shakir Smith, 41, (center) is escorted into the Public Safety Building in Johnstown for processing on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.

EBENSBURG – A Johnstown man accused of ordering the 2015 killing of a confidential informant was not present in Cambria County court Tuesday as he was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge.

Shakir Mosi Smith, 43, was scheduled to appear before Judge David Tulowitzki by video to be arraigned, but reportedly refused to leave his cell at Somerset County Jail to attend the video conference.

Tulowitzki then went ahead with the arraignment in Smith’s absence.

Smith’s court-appointed attorney, Tim Burns, entered a plea of not guilty on his client’s behalf.

Smith was charged in May with first-degree murder in the killing of Carol Ashcom, 30, who was shot dead inside her Lower Yoder Township home in March 2015. Prosecutors allege that Smith ordered a member of his Prospect-based criminal organization to kill Ashcom after her work as a confidential informant led to his arrest in a drug case.

He had previously been charged in August 2019 with criminal solicitation of first-degree murder.

Both cases against Smith remain active and have been consolidated for trial. Jury selection for that trial is scheduled for Sept. 22, 23 and 24, with the trial itself scheduled to begin on Sept. 29. Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Forrest B. Fordham III said Tuesday that prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

Burns said as he left the courtroom Tuesday that he intends to “vigorously” fight the charges against Smith.

Tuesday was the second time court proceedings involving Smith went ahead in his absence after he refused to leave his cell. It also happened in October 2019 when he was arraigned on the solicitation charge against him.

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.

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