Nicholas Smith makes another first appearance

ROBERT C. REED/HICKORY DAILY RECORD: Nicholas Smith stares at his attorney Cynthia Phillips-Goelling as he makes a first appearance before Catawba County District Court Judge David W. Aycock Monday morning. Smith is charged with arson and destroying remains to conceal death. He is also charged with accessory after the fact to murder in relation to a 2017 shooting death.

Two years ago Monday, 40-year-old Harry Lewis “Wesley” Bruner Jr. was found dead among the smoldering rubble of his Maiden home. At first, it was believed he died in a house fire. Further investigation revealed Bruner had been shot in the head.

On Monday, 40-year-old Nicholas Francis Smith of Conover appeared in Catawba County District Court on new charges in relation to Bruner’s death. He was originally charged with accessory after the fact to murder two years ago.

In addition to the original charge, Nicholas Smith was recently indicted on one felony count each of destroying remains to conceal death, first-degree arson, felony conspiracy to commit first-degree arson and possession of stolen goods.

He was taken into custody on those charges Friday and was issued a $50,000 secured bond. As of Monday afternoon, he was still in custody. Prior to his new charges, Nicholas Smith was out on bond, according to court documents.

In court on Monday, defense attorney Cynthia Phillips-Goelling said Nicholas Smith may be accepting a plea deal from the state attorney general’s office on Wednesday. No plea deals are final until a judge accepts the plea.

Nicholas Smith isn’t the only defendant in this case.

Co-defendant Lennon Riley Henderson of Newton was only 16 when he was charged with the murder of his cousin Bruner. Up until this year, Henderson, now 18, was represented by Mitch Walker, who is now chief assistant district attorney for the 36th prosecutorial district.

The case, along with several others, had to be turned over to the attorney general’s office earlier this year due to either being previously represented by Walker or by current District Attorney Scott Reilly.

Nicholas Smith’s sons are also co-defendants. Nolan Andre Smith, 19, of Conover, is charged with accessory after the fact in relation to Bruner’s death. Nolan Smith’s younger brother Lucas Smith was also charged, but due to his age at the time of his arrest, details on his charges and the outcome are confidential.

According to court documents, Nolan Smith was released from custody on bond in January 2018.

Henderson and Nolan Smith will also appear in court on Wednesday. These court dates were scheduled several months ago. It is unknown whether or not Henderson and Smith have been offered a plea deal.

Henderson does not face the death penalty. He is currently being held in the Catawba County Detention Center under a $1.5 million bond.

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Jordan Hensley is the court reporter at the Hickory Daily Record. ​

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