Apr 28, 2015 9:31 PM
A Redding man once sentenced to death row could now be off the hook, after the California Supreme Court ruled he didn't receive a proper sentencing trial.
Paul Gordon Smith Jr. was convicted of torturing and killing a 20-year old woman in 1998, and the violence continued inside the Shasta County Jail while Smith was awaiting trial.
Smith assaulted and beat Timothy Renault, a jail guard who is now a Redding police officer.
Renault describes Smith as a violent man who enjoyed assaulting anyone he could get his hands on, and today he shares his story of what happened on the night of June 22nd in 2002.
"You know you have some people in the world that enjoy watersports or like four-wheel driving or fishing...what he liked was getting hurt and assaulting people, that's what he enjoyed."
Paul Gordon Smith, 24 at the time, was being housed in "3C" at the Shasta County Jail -- a segregated unit for inmates who are considered a high threat.
"He would assault inmates whenever possible...he was one of the most violent people we had seen in there...he was either always looking to escape or assault someone."
Smith decided to act on his burning urge to escape in the early morning hours of June 22nd in 2002 -- when Renault was doing his cell checks.
Renault says that's when an inmate signaled him to leave the top floor because something bad was about to happen.
"Where I was exiting was where they came out of, they were waiting next to that door."
Both Smith and 34-year old Matthew Williams jumped out of a shower stall and began brutally attacking Renault.
They used a crudely-made metal grate as an axe, striking Renault multiple times.
"The plan was to kill me, use my uniform on Matthew Williams, so if the camera saw anything they would see what they thought was a correctional officer escorting an inmate out...they were going to break down the windows of the jail and repel down the 50 feet of sheet they had stockpiled."
Refusing to let either of the inmates escape, Renault kept yelling for help even after Smith ripped the radio off his uniform.
Renault says if it wasn't for one jail guard's intuition that led him to the cell where Renault was attacked, he might not have been alive today.
Renault suffered from skull fractures, a broken jaw and tooth, and other injuries that took him off the job for the next 16 months.
13 years later, Renault is still fighting the bad guys but news of Smith's overturned conviction was like another blow to the head.
"To have that overturned is mind blowing."
Smith now could face another penalty-trial, or life in prison.