Man shot in the head at point-blank range survives, considered a ‘medical miracle’ by doctors

Chris Smith, 49, was shot in the head a point-blank range on Nov. 24, 2021, after returning home with Leslie Reeves, 45, on their first date. (Source: KMOV)
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 10:13 AM CDT
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ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV/Gray News) – A man from Missouri who was shot in the head and left to die is making remarkable strides, leaving doctors stunned by his recovery.

Chris Smith, 49, was shot in the head a point-blank range on Nov. 24, 2021, after returning home with Leslie Reeves, 45, on their first date.

Smith doesn’t remember much from that evening but said he and Reeves had gone to the bar for a few drinks.

The pair returned to Smith’s home, but he has no memory of what happened next. Police later pieced together events of the evening based on evidence at the crime scene.

“I guess when he broke through my back door I must have come running down or running into the kitchen and he pistol-whipped me,” Smith told KMOV.

Police say 49-year-old Robert Tarr is accused of shooting Reeves, killing her, and then turning the gun on Smith.

“When I was on the floor, he shot me execution-style in the head,” Smith said.

He said he lay helplessly on the kitchen floor for the next 14 hours, bleeding and fading in and out of consciousness.

It wasn’t until later the next day, which was Thanksgiving, that friends and family became worried after having not heard from Reeves or Smith.

When a friend asked police to do a welfare check at the house, officers found Reeves dead and Smith clinging to life.

“Even though we knew it was a single gunshot wound to the head, the outcome ... we didn’t know what would happen because it was a devastating injury,” Dr. Chetan Gowda, a trauma physician, said. “So, we just wanted to give it our best shot to get him through the OR first. Then we could get him to the ICU and continue to support him to get him through this.”

A bullet remains lodged in Smith's brain following the shooting.
A bullet remains lodged in Smith's brain following the shooting.(Sharon Costanza)

Dr. Jose Espinosa, a neurosurgeon, successfully completed a craniotomy on Smith, relieving the brain swelling. After surviving the surgery, his prognosis remained grim.

Weeks turned into months, and as Smith was gradually weaned off sedation medication, his medical team started to see signs of improvement.

His first memory was in February when he woke up in the hospital, unsure of why he was there.

“It’s crazy. It’s like a movie script,” Smith said. “It really is, or something you’d see on ‘20/20.’”

Tarr was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Reeves. He is also charged with attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Smith.

On Monday, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department announced additional charges against Tarr.

According to prosecutors, Tarr is now also charged with two counts of solicitation of murder for hire. Prosecutors allege while in jail for the double shooting, Tarr hired someone to kill Smith as he recovered from his injuries and also to kill a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy working on the case.

Officials have not said what relationship Tarr and Smith had before the shooting or a motive for the case.

After regaining some of his strength this spring, Smith transferred his medical care to another hospital. There, neurosurgeon Dr. Victor Williams successfully reconstructed Smith’s skull to improve his cosmetic appearance and clear up an infection from a prior surgery.

“We didn’t know if he would survive this,” Williams said.

As Smith progressed, continuing his in-patient occupational and physical therapy, Williams said the prognosis continued to shift.

Smith said living his life in a wheelchair was not an option for him.

“I told him, ‘You told the wrong person that he can’t do something because I’m too stubborn and I’ll do it out of spite,’” Smith said.

Since then, Smith has completed his in-patient therapy and now works out and builds strength with his personal trainer at Club Fitness. While he continues to have some paralysis on the left side of his body, he is working to strengthen both his left arm and leg.

Smith can now walk with the assistance of a cane, which is most surprising of all to his medical team.

“It’s what folks would call a miracle,” Williams said. “I think that it has been miraculous to see him go through this process, watch him recover and watch him work so hard at his recovery. For him to make the strides he’s ultimately been able to make has been very rewarding.”

Smith is looking forward to returning to some of his favorite activities, like playing golf and football. First, he’s aiming to tackle everyday tasks with independence.

“Trying to brush your teeth, tie your shoes, everyday things we take for granted,” he said. “[Tarr] took my life. He took my ability to be a normal human being.”