Several hundred people were called as jury selection began Monday for the murder trial of Kevin Edison Smith.

Smith 45 is accused of kidnapping and killing Texas City teen Krystal Jean Baker in 1996.

Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Lieck confirmed that Smith was offered a plea deal that he rejected. Lieck would not disclose the terms of the offer but did say it did not offer any less time than Smith faces if convicted.

“It’s not a surprise he didn’t accept it” Lieck said. “He’s facing a straight 40 (years) and we weren’t about to deviate from that.”

Lieck appointed a special counsel for the trial. She said she would advise counsel but would be required to stay outside the courtroom because she might be called in as a witness against Smith. Randy McDonald an Anahuac-based attorney was selected by Lieck to prosecute the case.

McDonald is expected to argue that Smith a refinery worker kidnapped sexually assaulted and murdered the 13-year-old Baker 16 years ago. McDonald also will try to prove that Smith dumped her body under a Chambers County bridge.

Police said DNA evidence from the murder scene matched Smith’s. His DNA was entered into a national database years later because of an arrest in Louisiana and was matched.

If convicted Smith could face 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

Lieck would not comment on why Smith was not charged with capital murder which would have made him eligible for the death penalty.

“I promise that will be answered at trial” Lieck said. “A lot of questions will be answered during the trial.”

Lieck said a special prosecutor was brought in because she had a conversation with Smith after his arrest.

“He sent for me and I went to see him” Lieck said. “I knew going in that if he said anything I could use I would have to make this move. It wasn’t without thorough thought.”

Lieck said she chose McDonald because of his location and experience.

“Randy’s office is right here in town and he’s the only local attorney that is board certified in criminal law” Lieck said. “On top of that he’s tried more than 50 murder cases in his career and that makes him the most qualified to be the special prosecutor in this case.”

Baker left her Texas City home and walked to a convenience store to use the pay phone to reach a friend for a ride to nearby Bayou Vista.

The friend was never reached and Baker disappeared.

Initially Texas City police handled Baker’s disappearance as an angry teen and classified her as a runaway.

Her body was found 35 miles away under the Trinity River Bridge in Chambers County two weeks later.

The Baytown Sun is a sister publication of The Daily News. Contact reporter Mike Gunning at mike.gunning@baytownsun.com.

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