Man who shot, killed Saints’ star Will Smith receives 25-year sentence for manslaughter

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Eight years after retired NFL Pro Bowler Will Smith was killed during a confrontation following a car crash, Cardell Hayes received a 25-year prison sentence Thursday after being convicted of manslaughter, according to the Associated Press.

Hayes was convicted in January and faced up to 40 years in prison. The 36-year-old was originally convicted in 2016 of manslaughter in Smith’s shooting death and the attempted manslaughter of Racquel Smith, Will’s widow, who was shot in the legs. Smith was shot eight times during the incident, the AP reported.

In the 2016 trial, Hayes was initially charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder before a split jury later convicted him of the lesser charges of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, which led to a sentence of 25 years.

However, the conviction was tossed after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed non-unanimous verdicts. Hayes was released in 2021 on bail, and the retrial was delayed for years due to complications.

In the retrial, Hayes was again convicted of manslaughter, and he was acquitted of the attempted manslaughter charge.

At the sentencing Thursday, Smith’s teenage daughter, Lisa, spoke and shared that her mother had to relearn how to walk after the shooting, according to the AP.

“Mr. Hayes, you ruined my life,” Lisa said. “You took my father away from me.”

Evidence shows Smith, who was 34 when he died, was intoxicated at the time of the crash, but no witness or evidence has corroborated Hayes’ claim that Smith fired at Hayes first.

The former New Orleans Saints star played nine years in the league, totaling 67 1/2 sacks, and helped the team win Super Bowl XLIV. He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2019.

(Photo: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

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