By Mike Hellgren


BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A father and daughter accused in a murder and cover-up were denied bail as both appeared before separate judges in Baltimore Thursday.

Keith and Valeria Smith are accused of stabbing Keith’s wife Jacquelyn Smith last December, then claiming in tearful interviews that a panhandler committed the killing.

“Mr. Smith is always innocent until proven guilty, and I haven’t seen anything yet to prove him guilty,” said Keith Smith’s defense attorney Natalie Finegar. “When the state’s attorney’s office and the police department start putting their case out into the media before they put it on in the courtroom, they have serious issues with their case. Up until the time that they decided to issue a warrant, they did not have any other suspects.”

Valeria Smith’s attorney Brandon Mead called the charging documents “15 pages of fluff” and said his client was innocent.

Both suspects were captured just 20 minutes from the Mexican border in southern Texas — where prosecutors said the two were fleeing.

But Mead said his client just wanted time away from Baltimore’s cold weather.

“Let’s be realistic, we would all love to take a vacation to Mexico,” Mead said. “Your dad says, ‘Hey, you know what, let’s head on down to Mexico. Let’s take a little family vacation — some r and r.’ I don’t see there being any criminal element to that.”

He describes the government’s case as “circumstantial.”

Yet both judges who presided over bail reviews felt the father and daughter were “extreme risks to public safety” and “at extreme risk of flight.” The defendants appeared via closed-circuit cameras.

Keith Smith originally told investigators that a woman with a baby asked for money as they drove near the Latrobe Homes on December 1st.

He said his wife gave her ten dollars. Then, he claimed a man with that woman approached their car to thank his wife — but instead stabbed her and snatched her purse.

They had all been at the American Legion in West Baltimore in the hours before the murder, where a witness, Cheryl Coleman, told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren she checked them in at the door and they never appeared to argue.

According to charging documents, the Smith’s gave inconsistent timelines of the night of the murder, and cell phone data puts them in Druid Hill Park, far from the East Baltimore’s block where they claimed Smith was stabbed.

Police said phone records show that at the time Keith Smith said he was traveling southbound on Druid Hill Avenue, Valeria Smith’s cell phone was pinging off of a cell tower far northwest of their specified location.

The data from Valeria Smith’s Google account indicated that after leaving the American Legion they traveled northbound into Druid Hill Park near the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for around 12-16 minutes.

In each of their statements, Keith and Valeria Smith stated they headed south after leaving the American Legion. Neither mentioned going to Druid Hill Park, according to charging documents.

In a later interview, Keith Smith said he got lost and didn’t want to admit. He said they were sitting in the park looking at pictures taken during the evening on his phone.

Immediately after the interview, police say Mr. Smith got into a rental truck and drove to Winter Haven, Florida where he requested to be relocated by his job.

Police also revealed they wiretapped Keith Smith’s phone.

They interviewed his brother who told them Keith wanted to “get rid of” Jacquelyn because she wanted a divorce.

The charging documents show that while monitoring a wiretap, Keith Smith placed two phone calls to flight reservations and attempted to book one-way tickets to Cuba and Canada, but was unable to because he does not have a U.S. passport.

He also inquired about traveling to the Virgin Islands without a passport.

The reservationist said he could travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands with just his driver’s license.

While on the phone, Keith also asked a search engine if a passport was needed to go to Jamaica and if there was a way to cross into Mexico without going through the border.

Police never found the victim’s cell phone or necklace, both items that were reported stolen by the two.

“It makes it impossible to pick a jury when the public believes what is put out as an insinuation or an allegation,” defense attorney Finegar said. “I’m asking the public to hold open your mind. We haven’t seen any of this evidence yet and there are a lot of questionable forensics that are included in the statement of probable cause. You can look at it. It’s a buzzword for bad junk science potential.”

In court Thursday, judges learned Valeria Smith suffers from bipolar disorder and heroin addiction.

Her father has a violent criminal last that includes armed bank robberies.

Jacquelyn Smith’s mother and brother both said they were immediately suspicious of her husband.

They remembered Jacquelyn as a loving mother and a talented engineer and said they are eager to see justice served.

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Comments
  1. It’s disturbing to read this account of the crime and investigation and see just how much of an electronic “footprint” of anyone’s day to day activities is available.

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