Man charged with beating cousin to death

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, September 28, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- 25-year-old Brian Lorenzo Smoot is in the Richmond County Jail. He is charged with murder, accused of beating his first cousin to death with a crowbar.

Family and friends comforted each other after 24-year-old Donte Safford was murdered early Friday morning. It happened at 2344 Shadowood Drive.

"Deputies found a male slumped over on the couch, he was unresponsive," Sgt. Richard Roundtree said.

Richmond County deputies got the call at 7:45 Friday morning. They said a fight happened in the grandfather's back yard in the one-bedroom cottage.

"It was at a relative's house, we know that he was involved in an altercation with another relative," Roundtree said.

Investigators said Safford got in an argument with his cousin Brian Smoot about potential drug use. According to investigators, the argument escalated and turned physical. They said it appears Safford was hit several times in the head and body with a crowbar. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Neighbors said they did not hear any noise Friday morning, and were shocked when they found out what happened.

"I'm thinking there's a lot of chaos and we don't know which way to go or how it's gonna pan out, so hoping for the best," Ralph Hamilton said.

Family and friends said they don't understand how the argument could get so serious.

"It's a close-knit family and it really surprised us that something could happen like this," Hamilton said.

An autopsy was performed Friday. Richmond County Chief Deputy Coroner, Mark Bowen said Safford died from multiple blunt force trama to the head and neck.

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