As trial begins, defense claims shooting of DOC sergeant teaching son to drive was self-defense

Matthew Wilks

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- A jury trial began Monday, Feb. 24 for Matthew Wilks, 35, of Whitefish Bay, charged in connection with the fatal shooting of Tracey Smith, which happened Aug. 30, 2019 near 51st Street and Capitol Drive. Prosecutors said road rage led to the gunfire as Smith taught her son how to drive. Wilks said it was self-defense.

With the trial expected to move quickly, on Monday, jurors were selected, opening statements wrapped up, and several people testified for the prosecution, including the state's key witness, Smith's son.

Wilks faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Smith, a sergeant at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, was teaching her son, Caleb Smith, how to drive. He was behind the wheel when he got into a minor fender bender with Wilks, who was in a van.

Caleb Smith

Caleb Smith testified that following the crash, his mom got out of the vehicle, upset.

"You hear your mom yelling, 'What the (expletive)?'" asked Paul Tiffin, prosecutor.

"Like, she was like, (motions), looking at the car," said Caleb Smith.

The 18-year-old said Wilks stood on the ledge of his van and pointed a pistol at Tracey Smith.

"The person from the van told my mom, 'Shut the (expletive) up,' and, '(Expletive), I'll kill you,'" said Caleb Smith. "Then, he shot my mom, and got in his car, and made a U-turn."

Tracey Smith

During opening statements, Wilks' attorney argued his client only fired because he believed Tracey Smith was going to pull out a gun. The defense said in the midst of cursing and yelling, Tracey Smith retrieved her purse and reached inside, saying to Wilks, "I got something for you."

A bystander told jurors Tracey Smith walked up to Wilks and got within three feet of him when the gunshot rang out.

"They was so close, I thought that she knew him," said Jerod Brumfeld, witness.

But Caleb Smith said his mom was never armed, and never had her purse throughout the confrontation.

"I don't remember the purse coming out of the car," said Caleb Smith.