By Julie Watts

MARTINEZ (KPIX 5) — A grim, decades-old cold case murder in the East Bay had a stunning twist this week when the wheelchair-bound millionaire defendant went missing the day the jury’s verdict was set to be read.

Richmond police were worried Sherill Smothers had skipped bail when he failed to show up at the Martinez courthouse Tuesday afternoon, giving the 35-year-old cold case a dramatic twist.

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Smothers is accused of brutally murdering a single mother in her Richmond home in 1983 while her children slept in the next room.

He had been ordered to stay in the Martinez area, but reportedly told his lawyer he was coming from Granite Bay, the upscale Sacramento area neighborhood where he lives. When he didn’t show up in court, the judge issued a no-bail bench warrant.

Smothers was partially paralyzed in a car accident five years after the murder and successfully sued General Motors, winning a $6 million judgment.

That enabled him to post his $1.3 million bail years later when DNA evidence linked him to the cold case.

Marsha Carter was brutally murdered in her Richmond Home, stabbed to death while her children slept in the next room

They awoke to find their mother missing and her room turned into a bloody crime scene with a knife sticking out of her pillow

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Carter’s 10-month-old baby was found underneath the bed.

Decades later, Richmond police finally arrested Smothers, who was Carter’s on-again, off-again boyfriend.

Police told KPIX 5 they can’t provide details on the investigation until after the verdict is read, but investigators were optimistic.

“This was a case where the investigator had gathered all the facts and knew that she could put a case together and knew that she could put a case together,” said Matthew Stonebraker with the Richmond Police Department.

The defendant was later arrested at his home.

KPIX 5 reached out to both the district attorney and the defense, but they declined to speak about the case until after the verdict is read.

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The verdict reading is now scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning.