CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A defense attorney in Kanawha County listed some disturbing details that allegedly led a teenager to kill four members of his family.

The quadruple murder trial for Gavin Smith began in Kanawha County Circuit Court this morning. Smith was just 16 years old when he was charged with killing his mother Risa Mae Saunders, 39; stepfather Daniel Dale Long, 37; 12-year-old Gage Ripley and 3-year-old Jameson Long in Elkview, West Virginia in December 2020.

Smith was indicted in the murders and pleaded not guilty earlier this year.

“The issue on this trial is not whether Gavin shot his family members and killed them, because he did. It’s whether that act he took, that shooting death meets the definition of first-degree murder,” said Defense Attorney John Sullivan. “And the important parts of that definition are primitive premeditation, deliberation, intent and malice. Malice might be the one that you’re going to have to think the hardest about.”

During opening statements, Sullivan said the instance was not a case of malice, but of “desperation.” Sullivan claimed Smith was allegedly physically abused by his stepfather and was not allowed to go any farther than the front porch.

Sullivan also alleged a padlock was kept on the refrigerator in the kitchen while other food was kept in the parents’ bedroom and that Smith often took care of 3-year-old Jameson.

“You’re going to hear from police that they searched the whole house and they announced their presence. They’re looking for Gavin, but he never came out. It was only after they searched an upstairs bedroom that he was found hiding behind a dresser that had been pulled out from the wall,” said JC MacCullum, Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor.

Smith’s grandfather, Tim Saunders, who made the discovery that the four family members had been killed, also took the stand in the case today, saying he yelled for the family members and went into the bedroom when they didn’t respond.

In September 2021, Rebecca Walker was sentenced to 10 years in prison in connection to this case. She pleaded guilty in July 2021 to four counts of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. She was was 17 at the time, but pleaded guilty as an adult.