Following trial, New York man sentenced to double life in state prison for the 2020 New Year’s Day murder with ghost gun
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced today that a New York man has been sentenced in Providence County Superior Court to multiple life sentences at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) after being found guilty of the 2020 murder of 54-year-old Cheryl Smith in Pawtucket with a ghost gun on New Years Day.
On November 15, 2022, following the conclusion of an eight-day jury trial before Superior Court Justice Kristen E. Rodgers, the jury found Jack Doherty (age 27) guilty of one count of murder, one count of discharge of a firearm when committing a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and one count of carrying a pistol without a permit.
At a sentencing hearing on March 28, 2023, before Judge Rodgers, the Court sentenced the defendant to consecutive life sentences at the ACI for murder and discharging a firearm when committing a crime of violence resulting in death. Additionally, the Court sentenced the defendant to a consecutive five-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder, and 10 years suspended with 10 years probation for possession of a pistol without a license.
On August 5, 2021, a co-defendant, Shaylyn Moran (age 22), was convicted of murder and sentenced to serve life in prison, plus 20 years, for her role in the murder of Cheryl Smith.
“New Year’s Day, for many, typically symbolizes new beginnings and renewed promise for the year ahead. This was not the case for Cheryl Smith when she was senselessly murdered by the defendant. In this case and so many others, the availability of illegal firearms has led directly to terrible tragedies; harming good people and taking lives prematurely,” said Attorney General Neronha. “The punishment handed down today will not return Cheryl to her family and friends, but it is my hope that this significant sentence will bring them a measure of justice. As always, I am grateful to the men and women of the Pawtucket Police Department for their continued outstanding work here.”
At trial, the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that on January 1, 2020, the defendant shot and killed Cheryl Smith at her home on Baxter Street in Pawtucket.
The State established at trial that in the months before the murder, the defendant developed a long-distance romantic relationship with co-defendant Shaylyn Moran. During that time, the co-defendants conspired to attack Shaylyn Moran’s ex-boyfriend during conversations on social media and over the phone.
On December 31, 2019, the defendant traveled from the state of New York to visit Shaylyn Moran for the first time in Rhode Island, bringing with him a 9mm ghost gun pistol. The two rented a room at a hotel in Pawtucket, and later left to attend a New Year’s Eve party, where the defendant proposed to Shaylyn Moran.
The two returned to their hotel room and developed a plan for the defendant to shoot and kill anyone who answered the door at the home where Shaylyn Moran’s ex-boyfriend lived on Baxter Street.
On the evening of January 1, 2020, following Shaylyn Moran’s instruction, the defendant traveled to Baxter Street and after surveilling the home, knocked on the door.
Cheryl Smith answered the door, and the defendant shot her four times with his 9mm ghost gun pistol, before fleeing. First-responders rushed Cheryl Smith to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Investigators from the Pawtucket Police Department tracked down the co-defendants several hours later and arrested them as they were exiting their hotel room in Pawtucket. At the time of the arrest, the defendant was in possession of the 9mm ghost gun pistol.
At trial, the State successfully rebutted the defendant’s affirmative defense that he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Cases such as these are devastating for the victim and difficult for the community. Cheryl’s life, like so many others, was taken senselessly and much too soon,” said Pawtucket's Acting Public Safety Director and Police Chief Tina Goncalves. “We thank the Attorney General's Office for their partnership and diligence on this case. The Pawtucket Police department will always be committed to serving and protecting our people.”
Special Assistant Attorney General Stephen Dambruch and Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney of the Office of the Attorney General and Sergeant Michael Cioe and Sergeant Justin Gould of the Pawtucket Police Department led the investigation and prosecution of the case.