A man suspected of killing his wife in November pleaded not guilty to a charge of manslaughter during his arraignment in Natrona County District Court on Thursday.

Rodney Hayes Smith II, 51, entered the plea before the Judge Catherine Wilking.

Conviction of manslaughter is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.

However, prosecutors have added  a habitual criminal enhancement that, if convicted of the manslaughter count, would imprison him for life, Natrona County District Attorney Dan Itzen said.

There are two versions of habitual criminal, Itzen said.

The first would be if a defendant has two prior felonies and then commits a violent felony, which would result in a prison sentence of 10 to 50 years, he said.

The second would be if a defendant commits three or more felonies and commits a violent felony, they are subject to a nonnegotiable life sentence, Itzen said. "The judge doesn't have any discretion; it's simply a life sentence."

Smith was convicted in Natrona County of burglary in 1991, aggravated burglary in 2001 and accessory after the fact that same year.

In Sweetwater County, he was convicted in 1991 and in 2001 of buying, receiving or concealing stolen property; and convicted in 2006 for forgery, although the date for the latter charge was not specified in court documents.

Smith remains in custody on a $100,000 bond.

Itzen said a trial date will be set later, probably in mid-summer.

The case started on the evening of Nov. 29, when he allegedly struck his late wife, 42-year-old Anna Mae Smith, with his right elbow, causing her to fall and hit her head on the floor during an argument at their home on Village Drive, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

He called 911 at 1:30 p.m. the next day, and medical personnel found her body and pronounced her dead at the scene.

Rodney Smith initially told police that he went to bed early that night, woke up, heard her "breaking things and trashing her room," adding that she was an alcoholic and she often got out of control, according to the affidavit.

He said she fell down the stairs, and he carried her to bed, thinking she "was just severely intoxicated and needed to sleep."

Smith found her dead the next morning and called 911, according to the affidavit.

He initially told police that there never had been a history of violence between himself and his wife, but offered inconsistent explanations of what happened.

An autopsy determined that Anne Smith died from a subdural hematoma, usually caused by severe trauma to the head, and also found other injuries on her body.

At the time, Rodney Smith was being held in the Natrona County jail on an out-of-state warrant, was interviewed again by detectives on Dec. 5, and he admitted to a history of domestic violence.

He said he and she were arguing, she wanted to leave the house, he stopped her, she attacked him from behind, he hit her on her head with his elbow, she fell back and hit her head on the floor, and then stopped talking and moving.

"The next morning he found her obviously deceased and called 911," according to the affidavit.

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