HomeCrimePatrick Apostol arrested in 2020 death of Zackary Smith

Patrick Apostol arrested in 2020 death of Zackary Smith

Police in Denver have arrested a man three years after he allegedly shot his girlfriend’s lover, killing an aspiring musician beloved by his family and fellow bandmates.

Patrick Lee Apostol is accused of shooting 31-year-old Zackary Smith. He was arrested Friday on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence, the Denver Police Department said. Smith was shot in the back of the head as he drove away after he and Apostol’s girlfriend had sex outside their home, according to police.

Cops responded shortly before 4 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2020, to a ShotSpotter alert on the city’s east side. When they arrived, they found a car flipped over in an alley with a man, later identified as Smith, in the driver’s seat, suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. Paramedics took him to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead. A bullet had entered the rear window of the car and struck Smith. Investigators recovered a single 9 mm bullet casing from the alley.

While much of the probable cause affidavit reviewed by Law&Crime — including witness statements and text message threads — is redacted, the available portions layout a three-year journey by detectives to arrest Apostol. It also outlines how Apostol and his girlfriend allegedly tried to cover up the murder. His girlfriend has not been charged with a crime.

In the hours after the shooting, detectives received information from a man who said Apostol’s girlfriend and Smith were having an “intimate relationship” and the only time he could see her was when “Apostol was out of town.” The tipster also told them Apostol and his girlfriend lived just outside the alley where Smith was shot, the affidavit said. When investigators initially interviewed Apostol he was wearing a black robe. He also had ring cameras that had a perfect view and would have captured the shooting.

But when investigators obtained the videos, the footage around the time of the shooting was missing. It was likely that someone had deleted the footage, detectives concluded.

Zackary Smith murdered

Patrick Apostol, left, is accused of shooting Zackary Smith to death in Denver in 2020. Smith was allegedly having an affair with Apostol’s girlfriend. (Apostol: Denver Police Department; Smith: Metro Denver Crime Stoppers)

In an interview with detectives on Sept. 21, 2020, the girlfriend said she and Smith knew each other for about nine years and would “flirt at times” but denied having a sexual relationship. She admitted that Smith had texted her the night of the murder and asked to hang out. She said he came over between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. He came and parked in the alley and she came out to greet him. Apostol was asleep and did not know Smith was coming over, she allegedly told detectives.

She claimed they sat in the car for about 15 or 20 minutes, he left and she went inside to finish laundry in preparation for an upcoming trip, the affidavit said. She also told detectives that the day after the murder she had to do a factory reset on her phone because it wasn’t working properly. Detectives seized her phone but couldn’t come up with anything useful. Detectives later determined she likely deleted the data on her phone to get rid text messages, the affidavit said.

A search warrant of Apostol’s home the same day as his girlfriend’s interview was fruitful. His robe was seized and came back positive for gunshot residue, the affidavit said. Investigators found two 9 mm gun cases — the same caliber weapon used in the murder — but one of them was empty. While detectives did not have enough information to arrest him for murder, court documents say federal authorities arrested him on possession of illegal firearms and drug distribution charges. He pleaded guilty last year and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

In July of this year, investigators decided to re-examine Apostol, his girlfriend and Smith’s cell phones, thinking that technology had advanced enough in the three years since the shooting that maybe they could extract more information. It had. They were able to get into Smith’s phone, which unveiled eight months worth of text messages between him and his lover all the way up to the night of the murder which showed he met up with her for “drugs and sex” in his car in the alley where he was later found dead, the affidavit said.

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