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Basham serves 6 months for death
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Dakota Basham, 21, left, pleads guilty to reckless homicide, and Devin Lewis, 20, center, pleads guilty to accessory after the fact, with both receiving a judicial diversion during Circuit Court on Wednesday. Attorney Brett Knight represents the two men in front of Judge Bart Stanley. - photo by Atlanta Northcutt
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Treva Owens (fourth from left), cousin of the shooting victim, Joshua Smith, 18, reads a heartfelt letter as she tearfully elaborates on Smith’s bright spirit before he was shot and killed. - photo by Atlanta Northcutt

A young man made his final appearance in court Wednesday as he received a judicial diversion after serving six months in Warren County Jail for the shooting death of his roommate. 

The other suspect who was charged with accessory after the fact was given a one-year sentence on full probation along with a judicial diversion.

Dakota Ryan Basham, 21, has been given a judicial diversion after serving six months in Warren County Jail.

Basham was indicted in 2018 for second-degree murder of his roommate, Joshua Dell Smith, 18, whom he shot.

“We wish we would’ve had so much more time with Josh,” said Treva Owens, the cousin of Joshua Smith, as she read a heartfelt letter during the plea deal on Wednesday. “Josh had so many things left to do in his life. He will never know true love or experience married life. We will never be able to hold and spoil his babies like we did with him.”

Basham was also indicted on charges of aggravated assault, giving false reports to officers and possessing more than half an ounce of marijuana with intent to deliver. However, the other charges were dropped besides the possession of over half an ounce of marijuana with intent to deliver.

“We felt Basham needed to understand the seriousness of his actions by giving him a true consequence to realize this is where his life could be heading,” said District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis. “He received eight years on paper to do the right thing. His diversion only comes into play if he’s done everything he’s supposed to do and is a model citizen. The ball’s in his court.”

Devin Andrew Lewis, 20, was charged with accessory after the fact and pled guilty resulting in a sentence of one year on probation with a judicial diversion if no other charges occur during his year of probation.

“Lewis pled to the indicted offense, which is a Class E felony. Since he has no criminal history, he was absolutely eligible for diversion,” says Zavogiannis.

Basham’s reduced sentence of reckless homicide resulted in eight years on probation, while his sentence of possession of more than a half an ounce of marijuana with intent to deliver gave him two years on probation.

The sentencing was also a time to remember the victim.

“Josh was an amazing child with a heart of gold. That heart of gold never left him,” says Owens. “He always started his conversations with ‘how are you doing?’ and ended them with ‘I love you.’ He was always respectful and helpful to everyone, especially his granny. He was an amazing family member and a great friend.”

“My grandmother found out she had cancer in July of last year, and she grieved very much for Josh until she died in August, which is a family tragedy that Josh’s ray of sunshine could’ve helped all of us deal with,” added Owens. “Josh moved down to McMinnville to start college classes at Motlow. He wanted to further his education so he could eventually join the U.S. Marine Corps. and serve his country while protecting his family and friends”

The sentencing comes from the shooting death of Smith on March 16, 2018 at Bybee Woods, a duplex located off Bybee Branch Road. Basham told police he was standing in a doorway cleaning a pistol when the 357 Magnum revolver discharged and struck Smith on the other side of the room. At first, the shooting was ruled to be accidental.

As the investigation unfolded, conflicting claims emerged with reports of a witness being at the scene during the shooting. The witness was instructed to leave before police arrived and not to discuss the incident, but the witness later came forward.

Several guns were reportedly found at the duplex, along with marijuana and thousands of dollars, creating a suspicion of criminal activity at the residence. 

Lewis is believed to have been part of a plan to alter evidence at the scene and convince at least one person who was at the residence to leave before police arrived and not talk to police about what happened.

“This was a really tough case,” says Zavogiannis. “It was a case where law enforcement initially called it an accident, but upon further investigation, it was found not to be. The grand jury declared it was second-degree murder so after we reviewed the case and talked to the victim’s family, which played a huge part in the agreement, as well as understanding the remorse the defendants had, we felt this was the appropriate thing to do.”

Basham was arrested but made his $50,000 bond shortly after. He has since been out of custody until surrendering his bond and turning himself over to authorities on Aug. 15, 2019 to spend six months in jail.

 “These two men are very young and made a lethal mistake, but I think, in this case, they are truly remorseful and may be able to change the directions of their lives for the better,” added Zavogiannis. “It wasn’t an easy case to make a decision on, and we didn’t take it lightly. The victim’s family really played a huge part in the decision.”