(WBIR) A man accused of murdering his former girlfriend returned to court Wednesday, where he was appointed his fourth attorney in the case.
Officials charged Shawn Smoot with first-degree murder in the 2011 death of Brook Morris. She was his former employee and girlfriend.
Roane County deputies said Morris was shot several times. Her body was found lying near the intersection of Blair and Old Blair roads in Roane County. The 23-year-old mother left behind a 3-year-old son.
The victim's mother, Tina Gregg, said she's frustrated with the court system.
"It is delay after delay. It is bond - him skipping bond, him running - it's been the whole process from day one," said Gregg. "Every time I come down to court, I'm bombarded with some kind of ordeal taking place and the very last minute that's going to set us back even farther. I'm so tired of it. A person can only take so much, and I'm there. I've been there."
Gregg's friend Joan Berry, whose daughter was also murdered, said victims deserve better justice.
"It just rips your heart out. You can't sleep. You can't think of anything else," said Berry. "Ok, what's a speedy trial. We certainly haven't see one."
In the past three years, Smoot has been in and out of jail. When he didn't turn himself in back in 2012, authorities tracked him down in Mississippi. A judge later released him on bond.
This spring, officials arrested Smoot in McMinn County for DUI. Again, he was released on bond.
A month later, U.S. Marshalls found Smoot in a mental hospital in Chattanooga.
And Wednesday he was back in court.
Smoot's third attorney, Tom Slaughter, told the judge he had a conflict of interest and could no longer represent Smoot. The court could not say what was the conflict of interest, which frustrates Gregg.
"Why can I not be told what the conflict of interest is? Why do I not know? I should know everything that goes on in this case," said Gregg. "There should not be anything that goes on behind closed doors. I should be involved in every aspect of it. I don't know what the conflict of interest is, and I'll never know."
The judge removed Slaughter from the case and appointed Smoot a new attorney from Maryville, Stanley Barnett. During Wednesday's hearing, Gregg said Smoot smiled at her.
"I wanna choke him. I just want to choke him," said Gregg. "There is no amount of hate in the word. And then to look at me and smile - I mean, how degrading is that? How degrading is that?"
"If he would just be a man and admit what he's done. But he never will - he'll never admit what he's done," Gregg said. "I could maybe get past that just a little bit. I just don't think you smile at the victim's mother - that enrages me."
Gregg said she's tired of waiting for justice in her daughter's death.
"It's going to be three years October 15th," said Gregg. "I mean, how many lawyers do you get to go through? Is there a law? Who finally says no more, we're going whether you're ready or not - we're going. No more conflict of interest at the very last minute."
"I'm just so upset," said Gregg. "But what do I do? I don't have any rights, obviously, the victims have no rights. So I just have to roll with the punches, like I have from day one."
District attorney general Russell Johnson said they don't know when Smoot will get a new court case.
Morris's mother said she'll continue to fight for her daughter, no matter how long it takes.
"I'll be here every time. And every time as long as it takes," said Gregg. "And I argue with the lawyers - I'll tell them just what I think."
"I'm doing it for Brooke. I have to be Brooke's voice - she's not here anymore," said Gregg. "And I will speak for Brooke as long as God leaves me here. . . I will do it. I will speak for her. I will be here for every hearing because that's just what you do."
And Gregg's friend Joan Berry will continue to stand by her side.
"My heart is in this with Tina and all the victims," said Berry. "It's not just about my daughter. It's about getting better justice for victims."