MAYS LANDING — An Egg Harbor Township man accused of beating his girlfriend to death with a hammer has been detained in jail until a trial date is set.
On Wednesday, Lashawn Smith, 36, appeared for a detention hearing before Judge Bernard DeLury via video feed from the Atlantic County jail.
Smith is charged with murder and unlawful possession of a weapon in the death of his girlfriend, 28-year-old Sarah Phillips.
At 5:04 a.m. Friday, authorities received a 911 call for an injured woman in a home on South Zion Road. Phillips was found and pronounced dead at the scene. An investigation by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit and the Egg Harbor Township Police Department resulted in Smith’s arrest.
An autopsy revealed Phillips suffered multiple blunt- and sharp-force injuries, and the death was ruled a homicide.
Smith’s public defender, Stephen Funk, argued if released, Smith would be able to appear for future court hearings through help from his family, who live in Atlantic County.
“He does not have a very poor record of appearing,” Funk said.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy, representing the state, provided information that Smith had several prior domestic-violence incidents, including pending charges from Aug. 14 for simple assault on Phillips.
“The defendant’s conduct in this case was extremely violent,” DeLury said. “Even more alarming is the escalation of domestic violence from simple assault to murder of the same victim in just a few weeks time.”
In denying his release, DeLury said Smith is clearly a danger to others and a flight risk.
The defense has seven days to appeal the ruling. Smith’s next court hearing has not been set.