EUGENE — A white supremacist who murdered a Cottage Grove man during a brazen home-invasion robbery has been sentenced to life in prison.
Robert P. Smith, 35, pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated murder and other charges in the January 2012 shooting death of 48-year-old Terry Fruichantie.
Prosecutor Erik Hasselman said Smith and an accomplice, Kenneth Lee, burst into Fruichantie’s home wearing masks and demanding money. They chose the place because they knew Fruichantie grew medical marijuana and figured he would have money.
Terry Fruichantie, who was with his 78-year-old father and three women, told the intruders he didn’t have money.
Smith pistol-whipped him, knocking him to the ground. Smith then shot Fruichantie in the torso; he died in front of his father.
“Today is like a closure on a lot of this," Barbara Preuss, the victim’s mother, told The Register-Guard newspaper. “My son meant everything in the world to me."
Preuss said she would have preferred that Smith receive the death penalty. But because it’s unlikely such a sentence ever would be carried out, especially given Gov. John Kitzhaber’s vow not to execute any criminals while he is governor, she said she was OK with a plea deal that removed that possibility.
Besides murder, Smith pleaded guilty in the Fruichantie case to robbery, burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also pleaded guilty to six other first-degree robbery charges in connection with two armed holdups of a mushroom-buying business in 2011. He was sentenced to 22½ years on those convictions, to be served in addition to his life sentence in case something happens to reduce or negate the murder penalty.
Kenneth Lee, 47, Smith’s accomplice in the Fruichantie murder, was indicted on the same charges as Smith in that case, with the exception of aggravated murder. He pleaded guilty in October; no sentencing date has been set.
Hasselman said Smith was a member of the WAR Skins, a skinhead offshoot of the white supremacist movement. He has been involved in multiple prison gangs while incarcerated in California, Hasselman said.
Preuss read a statement before Smith was sentenced, calling her son “a good person who would do anything for anyone to help them." She said he enjoyed working on his property and spent a lot of time fixing it up so he would have a nice place to retire.
“On Jan. 13, 2012, Terry did retire, six feet under with a slab of granite on top of him that reads, ‘Gone Fishing,’" she said. “Terry did not deserve to die like he did, and for what reason I will never understand."