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Gun that killed Fairfax 'Goth' Dirk Smiler may have fired accidentally, attorney says

The woman accused of fatally shooting D.C. Goth scene fixture Dirk Smiler in February was again denied bond Thursday, and will likely sit in the Fairfax County jail at least until her preliminary hearing on May 3.

But the lawyer for Cara Cottle, 31, provided more details of Cottle's version of how Smiler was shot in the forehead in the couple's bedroom in Annandale on Feb. 15.

Peter D. Greenspun described a sequence of events in which, he alleged, the gun may have gone off accidentally. He also said Cottle did not pull the trigger on the World War II-era rifle that killed Smiler.

To recap: Cottle rented a house on Little River Turnpike near Northern Virginia Community College. She and Smiler lived in the basement, with other roommates upstairs.

On Feb. 15, Cottle and Smiler got into an argument over Smiler's actions with another woman, Greenspun said. Witnesses and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mark J. Sullivan said Cottle hit or punched Smiler, then went downstairs. Smiler followed.

Greenspun said that after some "intimate activity," Smiler became "very aggressive, assertive, assaultive and attacking toward Ms. Cottle," who is about a foot shorter than Smiler.

"He [was] strangling her," Greenspun said, and he presented photos to Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush of marks on Cottle's left arm and forehead he said were "consistent with being assaulted."

"Cara's head was over the bed," Greenspun said. "She thought she was losing consciousness. Mr. Smiler gets up, gets the weapon, makes some statements, is back on top of her. He's choking her. The rifle is between the two of them and it discharges."

He said gunpowder "stipling" marks on Cottle's body were "consistent with the trigger area being down between the two of them when the rifle is shot," and that Smiler was struck "literally between the eyes."

Greenspun said a witness reported Cottle coming upstairs, naked and covered in blood, and reporting that Smiler had been shot. Cottle told the witness "she didn't pull the trigger," Greenspun said.

Greenspun again asked for a $25,000 bond for Cottle, as he did Wednesday before substitute Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Edward V. O'Connor Jr.

Again, Cottle's mother was present as was Mark J. Fitzgibbons, president of corporate and legal affairs for American Target Advertising in Manassas where Cottle has worked for almost two years, to vouch for her employment. The company is owned by conservative fundraising icon Richard Viguerie.

Sullivan disagreed with Greenspun's description of how the gun went off. "The position of the rifle indicates it was not at the angle he [Greenspun] talked of," Sullivan said. "It only leads to one condition, that Ms. Cottle shot [the rifle]."

Greenspun said no DNA tests or fingerprinting had been done on the rifle to see if either Cottle or Smiler handled it before the shooting, and no ballistics tests have been performed either. Sullivan did not dispite that, but said Cottle's drug and alcohol use -- Greenspun acknowledged that Cottle was a social drinker and recently enrolled in a substance abuse rehabilitation program -- created a concern for community safety.

As O'Connor did on Wednesday, Roush found that Cottle "is a danger to the community" and denied her the opportunity to post bond.

-- Tom Jackman

By Tom Jackman  |  April 1, 2010; 2:26 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax , From the Courthouse , Homicide , Tom Jackman , Updates  
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To say that "Cara is a danger to the community",is so ridiculous and wrong that it makes me sick to my stomach. There are lots of people including me that have been around and spent lots of time with Cara over the last month and a half. I know for a fact that she is a great person with a big heart. Saying that Cara is dangerous because she was in rehab makes no sence. People go into rehab and counceling to better themselves not the other way around.

Posted by: nojoke73 | April 1, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

No marks on her neck? Have to admit she was a good shot if she could shoot him accidentally between the eyes during a struggle. Maybe the gun went off accidentally after he decided not to strangle her.

Posted by: LordGraywood | April 2, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I agree with you nojoke73 100%.

Posted by: shadow17 | April 2, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe two people think she is not guilty.

Posted by: LordGraywood | April 2, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

She's not dangerous because she was in rehab. She's dangerous because, um, she shot someone in the face.

Posted by: jaybee3 | April 2, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I dont think shes guilty, not because she was in rehab but because i know her and i know what kind of person she is.I know her very well, i know she is one of the most helping and giving person i have ever met in my life. She would have helped the world if she could have at one point in her life! This is a tragic event that occoured and i am sorry for dirk and his family, however, I stay strong for cara and I know in my heart she is innocent and time will tell...

Posted by: shadow17 | April 2, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Helping and giving? Man, I'm so glad that most people don't define shooting people in the head as "helping and giving." Jeez.

Posted by: jaybee3 | April 5, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

One would think that the Post has hired a reporter and an editor that went to some kind of accredited college/university. The English is terribly presented here.

Posted by: petsplay | April 5, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

PS Although this is an allegation, someone accused of murder where the circumstances remain unclear should be held for the general safety of the community.

Posted by: petsplay | April 5, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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