WILMINGTON, Del. — The Delaware attorney general’s office has dropped its witness intimidation charges against Wendell Smallwood, hours after an acquaintance of the West Virginia running back pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Smallwood was arrested in Morgantown earlier this month and extradited to his hometown of Wilmington, where police alleged he attempted to persuade a murder witness to recant her statement tying Zakee Lloyd to the 2012 shooting death of Wilmington resident, Manuel Oliveras, 51.
Lloyd, 22, admitted to the killing on Tuesday morning before the start of jury selection, and prosecutors said Smallwood’s cooperation was pivotal to the conviction.
Jason Miller, spokesman for the Delaware Department of Justice, issued the following statement:
“Since his arrest, Wendell Smallwood has been fully cooperative with the Department of Justice and Wilmington Police Department including giving a full statement regarding his involvement in witness intimidation. He was fully prepared to testify truthfully in the upcoming trial, and his cooperation was instrumental to the State in securing today’s conviction of Zakee Lloyd.
“There is no evidence of Smallwood’s involvement in the murder of Manuel Oliveras. Moreover, despite the recorded phone call between Smallwood and Lloyd, there is no evidence that it resulted in a threat being conveyed to that witness. In consideration of all of the facts and circumstances, including Smallwood’s full cooperation with authorities and the conviction of Zakee Lloyd, the State today entered a nolle prosequi on the witness intimidation charge against Wendell Smallwood.”
During Big 12 media days last week, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who has been mostly silent on the arrest, declined to answer any questions about Smallwood’s capacity to practice with the team while he was out on $40,000 bail. The coach continues to refer to his July 20 school-issued statement, in which he said WVU will “continue to monitor the situation.”
Holgorsen seemingly left the door cracked for Smallwood’s return, considering the player’s name remained on the roster as of Tuesday.
Smallwood is expected to be back for the start of fall camp on Thursday, but it remains to be seen whether Holgorsen will impose a suspension.
Wilmington police claimed that during March and May 2013—when Smallwood was a spring semester early enrollee at WVU—the player made multiple calls to a state witness attempting to persuade her to recant her statements implicating Lloyd in the death of Oliveras.