Two Drug Dealers Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murder of Federal Witness
LITTLE ROCK—Two drug dealers will spend the remainder of their lives in prison after conspiring to cause witness tampering resulting in death. Samuel “Big Hit” Sherman, 38, of Batesville, and Donald Bill Smith, 38, of Malvern, were both sentenced today to life in federal prison. There is no parole in the federal system. United States Chief District Judge D. P. Marshall, Jr., imposed the sentences.
Smith and Sherman were indicted in September 2019 in connection with the death of Susan Cooper, who had bought methamphetamine from Sherman but had begun working as an informant for law enforcement. In May 2016, Sherman was arrested and charged with selling methamphetamine to Cooper. As his case progressed, Sherman was released and permitted to work as an informant himself.
Though Sherman was supposed to be working as an informant, he had not provided enough information to help his case, and in September 2016, Sherman learned he was facing a significant federal prison sentence. Evidence at trial showed that upon learning this, Sherman called Smith, who was a methamphetamine dealer in the Malvern area. Smith had sold drugs to Rachael Cooper, who was Susan Cooper’s sister-in-law (they were married to brothers).
Cellular tower data presented at trial showed that shortly thereafter, Smith drove from Malvern to Batesville, where Sherman lived, and stayed in Batesville for approximately 40 minutes before returning to Malvern. On the way back to Malvern, Smith called Rachael. Rachael had been communicating with Susan about making arrangements for Susan to trade some hydrocodone pills for methamphetamine. Susan did not know the trade was with Smith.
That night, Rachael picked Susan up and drove her to meet Smith for the drug exchange. Rachael testified at trial that as they waited, she heard a gunshot followed by Susan crying out “I’m shot—get me out of here!” Rachael jumped in the driver’s seat and saw Smith shoot Susan several more times. Smith pulled Susan from the truck as Rachael sped away.
For a year and a half, Susan Cooper’s body had not been found. In July 2018, Smith was charged in state court with the murder, and after his arrest, a witness came forward to disclose Smith had demanded he help bury the body. This witness took federal agents to the location of Cooper’s body.
In September 2021, a jury trial resulted in both Smith and Sherman being convicted of conspiracy to cause witness tampering resulting in death. Smith was also convicted of witness tampering resulting in death, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine, and aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Smith, in addition to his life sentence, was ordered to serve a 50 year consecutive sentence.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anne Gardner and Bart Dickinson.
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