Bartow, FL-- It took 17 years to get to this day, but trial is underway for a man accused in the 1996 murder of a Bartow man.
Tommy Eugene Smith was 37-years-old and a nursing supervisor at Lakeland Regional Medical Center when his body was found during the early evening hours of Oct. 11, 1996.
Smith's body was found in an orange grove off Edison and Old Berkley roads, near Auburndale. He'd been shot twice in the head and once in the neck.
Smith was last seen on Oct. 10, leaving his home around 8 p.m. in his Jeep.
After 16 years of silence, Timothy Medders, a witness in the case, called the sheriff's office and told them 35-year-old Timothy Elbert Carey had shot and killed Smith when Carey was just 19-years-old.
Medders says he was there when it happened. He was 16 at the time.
Now, 17 years later, Carey is on trial.
Five days after the murder, the gun used in the shooting was found near the area where Smith's abandoned Jeep was recovered.
Medders told deputies that he and Carey were in Smith's Jeep that night, and that Carey told Smith to drive down a dirt road.
When all three got out of the Jeep, Carey, he says, robbed Smith and then shot him.
Prosecutors say Carey pointed a rifle at Medders too, and forced him to drag Smith's body into the orange grove.
The two then left the scene, say detectives, in Smith's Jeep - and abandoned it after it got a flat tire.
Carey faces charges of Murder and Armed Robbery.
Medders, say offcials, will not be prosecuted.