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BOOZE TURNED FRIENDS INTO VIOLENT FOES

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Ronald E. Smith and Darren Tuckett have been close friends for so long that they are practically family. In fact, Tuckett plans to marry Smith's daughter.

But when the two get together they like to drink. And when drinking, they also argue."They're best friends when sober but always arguing when drunk," Utah County sheriff's detective Dan Taylor said.

While drinking at Smith's Santaquin home during the early morning hours of Dec. 11, however, an argument between the two friends turned violent. Detectives allege that during the argument Smith walked to his bedroom, got a .22-caliber handgun and shot Tuckett four times at point-blank range in the abdomen.

During a subsequent struggle three more shots were fired, one striking the ceiling, one the wall and one the floor. Fortunately, none of the bullets struck any of Tuckett's vital organs. He spent a few days at Mountain View Hospital and was then released.

Utah County prosecutors charged Smith, 45, with attempted murder, a second-degree felony. He appeared before 4th Circuit Judge John C. Backlund Monday for a felony first appearance. If convicted, Smith could be sentenced to one to 15 years in prison.

Investigators say it's amazing that no one was seriously injured in the fracas. Five of Smith's grandchildren were sleeping on the floor when the shooting began.

"This is the same room where they were rolling around in and the gun went off in," Taylor said.

Investigators don't even know what Smith and Tuckett were arguing about. They say the incident is a classic example of how excessive alcohol use impairs judgment.

"It was just a matter of two (guys drinking) getting in a brawl," Taylor said.

According to statements made in court Monday, Smith has a history of alcohol abuse. His attorney said he has five past convictions of driving while under the influence of alcohol, the latest conviction coming last year. The attorney asked Backlund to reduce Smith's bail from the $200,000 amount that's now keeping him incarcerated at the Utah County Jail, on the promise that Smith would submit himself to a treatment program for alcohol abuse.

Backlund, however, refused to reduce the bail.