Family staged Baltimore woman’s death, blamed panhandler, police say
This “good Samaritan killing” outraged people in Baltimore and beyond.
Jacquelyn Smith’s husband called 911 on December 1, according to police, saying she had stopped her car to hand money to a needy woman with a baby when a man approached. He said the man reached for her wallet, fatally stabbed her in a struggle, and fled with the woman and baby.
But the investigation took a twist Sunday when her husband, Keith Smith, 52, and his daughter, Valeria Smith, 28, were taken into custody by Texas authorities in Harlingen, near the Mexican border, acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at a news conference.
Warrants charging Keith and Valeria Smith with first-degree murder have been issued, he said. Warrants released Monday by the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office in Texas said both were also charged with conspiracy to commit murder, assault, conspiracy to commit assault and a weapons charge.
“During the course of our investigation, we developed evidence that Mr. Smith was leaving Maryland, so we made the appropriate national notifications and the Texas State Police arrested him this morning,” Harrison said.
“All of our investigators prepared arrest warrants for both Keith (Smith) and Valeria Smith, outlining the evidence in this case to a judge who reviewed and signed the warrants for first-degree murder.”
Harrison declined to provide details about what evidence led to the charges, give a motive or say if other people will be charged.
Smith and his daughter, both represented by court-appointed attorneys, waived extradition before a district judge Monday in Brownsville, Texas. No bail was set, and both will remain held in a Cameron County jail. Judge Louis Sorola ruled that Maryland authorities have 10 days to travel to Texas and take the two into custody, according to the Cameron County district attorney’s office.
The husband’s story
Immediately after Smith’s death, Baltimore police said in a statement that she stopped to give money to a woman with a baby. A man approached, police said, thanked the family for the money, then tried to grab Smith’s wallet.
“A struggle ensued,” police said, and the man stabbed Smith in the torso before running away with the woman who had the sign.
Smith died shortly after arriving at the hospital, police told CNN.
Police searched at the time for two people — the woman and a man in his 30s with a goatee — but it proved fruitless.
Baltimore residents were shocked by the reported circumstances of the killing. Candlelight vigils were held.
“A good Samaritan, somebody that goes out of her way to help somebody, her life was cut short,” Clayton Guyton said at a December 6 ceremony, according to CNN affiliate WBAL.
Keith Smith detailed his version of events to reporters at the time.
He told CNN affiliate WJZ that the man “snatched her necklace, and before I knew it, the girl snatched the little pocketbook from the seat and they both ran. … I jumped out (of) the car to run, but I heard my wife screaming, so I came back to the car.”
He said he and his wife had danced to their wedding song the night before at a party.
“She was just everything to me,” he said. “My everything. We called each other soulmates,” he said to WJZ.
And he warned about the dangers of panhandlers.
“For anybody that’s in Baltimore, be careful when we see these panhandlers out here,” Smith said. “Get in close proximity to your car. Because like me, I’m from Baltimore, the last thing I thought that they were gonna take my wife’s life. And so now I gotta live with that. I gotta live with that every day.”
On Sunday night, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh released a statement about the case.
“Like everyone in our city, state and across this nation, we mourned the senseless killing of Jacquelyn Smith. To now learn that family members staged this brutal killing is beyond belief and represents a double tragedy,” Pugh said on Twitter.
“They were responsible for taking Jacquelyn’s life with unconscionable cruelty and contrived to do so in our city under the guise of random violence, exploiting the legitimate fears of our residents.”
CORRECTION: The headline has been updated to reflect that Valeria Smith is Keith Smith’s daughter.