Interactive graphic by DAN SWENSON | THE ADVOCATE
SATURDAY, APRIL 9
Former Saints player Will Smith and his wife, Racquel Smith, go to French Quarter Fest and then have dinner at Sake Cafe on Magazine Street. Cardell Hayes attends a small house party.
* 11:29 p.m.
New Orleans police respond to a shooting that leaves Will Smith dead and Racquel Smith wounded near the corner of Sophie Wright Place and Felicity Street.
SUNDAY, APRIL 10
* 1:32 a.m.
Police announce the Smiths were shot during an argument that broke out after their Mercedes SUV, being driven by Will Smith, was rear-ended by an orange Hummer H2 driven by Cardell Hayes. Police detain Hayes for questioning and recover the .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol they say he used to kill Smith.
* 8:07 a.m.
Police book Cardell Hayes into the New Orleans jail with second-degree murder.
* 5 p.m.
Cardell Hayes’ attorney, John Fuller, tells media that the collision preceding Will Smith’s fatal shooting occurred as Hayes pursued the license plate number of someone who had hit his Hummer nearby but drove off. Fuller also asserts that Hayes was “not the aggressor” in the deadly incident and that “evidence” suggested a second, yet-to-be located gun was present.
TUESDAY, APRIL 12
Surveillance video footage obtained by media shows the Mercedes driven by Will Smith on Saturday appear to lightly bump the back of Cardell Hayes’ Hummer shortly before Smith was shot dead. Footage shows Smith’s Mercedes drives off as Hayes’ Hummer pulls over, and the Hummer follows the Mercedes.
* Shortly before 5 p.m.
Police announce that they found a fully-loaded gun in Will Smith’s Mercedes during a search of the vehicle earlier that morning. Police say they also found a fully-loaded revolver in Hayes’ car.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13
* 11:30 a.m.
Attorney Peter Thomson speaks out on behalf of Will Smith’s family to — as he calls it — correct “factual distortions” being levied by Hayes’ defense lawyer. He claims Hayes shot Racquel Smith in each leg Saturday night before firing up to eight bullets into her husband’s back. Thomson claims that the shooting was “a cold-blooded murder” that occurred after Racquel Smith believed she had defused an argument between her husband and Hayes following the crash on Sophie Wright Place.
* 12:22 p.m.
An autopsy reveals that Will Smith was shot seven times in the back and once under the left armpit, according to New Orleans coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse.
* 6 p.m.
John Fuller holds his own news conference. He asserts that a witness saw Will Smith “in possession of a gun” before he was shot dead, and he alleges that “untoward activity” — possibly by an unnamed former New Orleans Police Department member — could explain why Smith’s weapon wasn’t found until two days after the shooting.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15
*2 p.m. - 8 p.m.
The Saints host a public visitation for Will Smith at their headquarters in Metairie, drawing an enormous crowd made up of regular fans, team officials and current as well as former players. In New Orleans, a large crowd honors Smith with an anti-violence second line parade led by musician James Andrews from near the scene of the killing to the Treme neighborhood some three miles away.
Meanwhile, Cardell Hayes' attorney, John Fuller, requests that the New Orleans Police Department be removed from the investigation into Smith's fatal shooting. He cites "a grave lack of faith in the honesty and competency of the investigation" by NOPD and asks for either State Police or the FBI to take over the case.
Fuller also files subpoena requests for former Saints running back Pierre Thomas and retired NOPD Capt. Billy Ceravolo, friends of Smith who dined with him the night he was killed. Both Ceravolo and Thomas attended Smith's visitation at Saints headquarters and were seen speaking with each other for a time.
Additionally, Fuller and his fellow attorney Jay Daniels file court motions to preserve evidence from two French Quarter strip clubs, saying they believe Smith went to one of those clubs on Saturday before heading to Sake Cafe and that video from the businesses could contribute to establishing what actually happened on the night of the killing.
SATURDAY, APRIL 16
State Police announce that they have declined to take over the investigation into Will Smith's shooting death, saying there is no basis for it. The agency expresses its faith in NOPD's investigative capabilities and also offers the department the State Police's "full resources" and support, including forensic and DNA expertise.
Earlier in the day, Will Smith is buried following a private funeral service at the Saenger Theater.
MONDAY, APRIL 18
NOPD tells The New Orleans Advocate that retired Capt. Billy Ceravolo has been removed from his position with the department's reserve division as the investigation into Will Smith's fatal shooting continues.
Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said, "Out of an abundance of caution, we're looking into his involvement prior to, during and after the incident. It's in everyone's best interest that he not be serving as a reserve officer while this investigation is ongoing."
Aside from having dinner with Smith on the night of the killing, Ceravolo was present at the scene after the shooting. However, Ceravolo has told reporters he was not there when Smith was killed.
Ceravolo's removal from the reserve division comes five days after Fuller publicly alleged that he had been informed by an unidentified witness that "untoward activity," possibly by an unnamed former NOPD cop, could explain why a weapon in Smith's car wasn't confiscated until two days following the shooting.
THURSDAY, APRIL 28
*10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
A grand jury returns a four-count indictment against Cardell Hayes, charging him of second-degree murder in Will Smith's death and attempted second-degree murder in the shooting of Racquel Smith. The other two counts are aggravated assault with a firearm as well as aggravated criminal damage to Smith's Mercedes SUV.
The indictment was handed up in the middle of a preliminary hearing in which Hayes' attorneys hoped it would be determined there was not enough evidence to keep the defendant in custody following his April 9 arrest in the case. When the indictment was handed up and the hearing was interrupted, a private investigator working for the defense was testifying that he had interviewed a witness who claimed to have seen Billy Ceravolo take a gun from Smith's car on the night of the shooting.
Ceravolo is a retired New Orleans Police Department cop now serving as a reserve in the force. He was Smith's close friend, had dined with the former Saints player on the night of the killing, and had shown up to the scene of the deadly shooting shortly after it occurred.
An attorney for Ceravolo denied her client ever took a gun out of Smith's car.
— Compiled by staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas