Man whose sister's murder in Baltimore was falsely blamed on a panhandler says he's not surprised by brother-in-law's arrest

Keith Smith, suspect in wife's murder, robbed same bank three times.

March 5, 2019, 6:23 PM

While his sister's slaying in Baltimore left his brother-in-law, who blamed the killing on a panhandler, in custody on murder charges along with his daughter, Marcel Trisvan says he "wasn't surprised" by the stunning twist in the homicide investigation.

"I always thought that they were involved," Trisvan told ABC News of his brother-in-law Keith Smith and Smith's 28-year-old daughter, Valeria Smith.

Keith Smith of poses with his wife, Jacquelyn Smith, who was stabbed to death by a panhandler in Baltimore on Dec. 1, 2018.
Courtesy Keith Smith

"It was just something about their story and how they claimed it unfolded and the details," Trisvan said. "I never believed it, just never made sense."

Story 'was not true'

Trisvan's sister, Jacquelyn Smith, 54, was killed just after midnight on Dec. 1. Her husband, Keith Smith, 52, claimed she was stabbed to death by a panhandler.

Smith said his wife spotted the panhandler on an East Baltimore street -- with a woman holding what appeared to be a baby -- and asked him to pull over so she could give them money, according to police.

'I never believed it, just never made sense'

But on Sunday, Michael Harrison, acting commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), said the story told by Keith and Valeria Smith "was not true."

The father and daughter were arrested in Harlingen, Texas -- near the Mexican border -- and both were charged with first-degree murder in Jacquelyn Smith's killing.

Convicted bank robber

Since his arrest, Keith Smith's troubling criminal history has come under increased scrutiny. He pleaded guilty in 2001 to robbing the same bank in Timonium, Maryland three times in nine months, according to reports obtained by ABC News from the Baltimore County Police Department.

Keith Smith of poses with his wife, Jacquelyn Smith, who was stabbed to death by a panhandler in Baltimore on Dec. 1, 2018.
Courtesy Keith Smith

"The suspect, while pointing the handgun, ordered the bank employees and bank customers to lay on the ground," reads the report on one of the robberies Keith Smith committed at the First Union Bank on Aug. 28, 2000. " All occupants of the bank complied. The suspect then vaulted over the teller counter. Once over the counter, the suspect ordered each teller to empty their teller drawers of all U.S. currency..."

Gerry Shields, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, told ABC News that Keith Smith served six years of a 12-year prison sentence for robbery with a deadly weapon and for fleeing the police.

Shields said Keith Smith was released from prison on Feb. 9, 2007.

In 2014, Keith Smith married Jacquelyn Smith, but it remains unclear if she was ever aware he spent time in prison.

'How about life without parole for both of them'

Keith and Valeria Smith are being held at the Cameron County, Texas, Jail without bail. They appeared in a Texas court on Monday and waived extradition back to Baltimore.

Keith Smith of poses with his wife, Jacquelyn Smith, who was stabbed to death by a panhandler in Baltimore on Dec. 1, 2018.
Courtesy Keith Smith

But Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio told ABC News that the pair isn't expected to return to Maryland to face charges right away and have not retained attorneys to date. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore said the office had not had any contact with either father or daughter.

The pair are likely to remain in Texas for the time being. Lucio said Baltimore Police requested at least two weeks before they send detectives to pick up Keith and Valeria Smith.

Red flags

When asked what he would like to see happen to the suspects, Trisvan told ABC News, "How about life without parole for both of them?"

"They conspired in such a way with little remorse for anybody," Trisvan said.

Trisvan said he immediately detected red flags in the account Keith and Valeria Smith gave to police and the media about how Jacquelyn Smith was killed.

One detail that he said raised his suspicion was when Keith Smith claimed he pulled over on a dark street in East Baltimore so his wife could give the panhandlers $10.

In an interview shortly after the killing, Keith Smith told ABC News that both panhandlers approached their car and the male panhandler stabbed his wife and snatched her chain as he and the woman were thanking her for the money. He said the woman panhandler reached into the car, grabbed his wife's purse and ran.

"My first question was, 'What man puts the window down on his wife that time of night in Baltimore, or in any city?'" Trisvan said. "I was thinking, 'OK then why didn't you stomp off? Why you didn't you push the guy and drive off? He said, 'I froze.'"

He said his suspicions were also piqued when Keith Smith claimed they were returning home the night of the murder after celebrating Valeria Smith's 28th birthday. Keith Smith said his daughter was in the backseat of his car when Jacquelyn Smith was stabbed once in the chest.

"My sister and his daughter didn't get along," Trisvan said. "And so the fact that they were in the car together raised an eyebrow for me and my family."

Trisvan also said that after his sister's death, he stopped by her house in Aberdeen, Maryland, and found Keith Smith packing up.

Moving to Florida

"He talked about leaving pretty much the day after the murder," Trisvan said. "He said he was going to Florida. I guess Florida was a decoy."

Harrison said the investigation into Jacquelyn Smith killing is ongoing.

"While I cannot go into tactical or investigative details about the case, so as not to compromise the integrity of the investigation, I can say that there was outstanding detective work involved from the very beginning...," Harrison said on Sunday.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh slammed the suspects for using issues of homelessness as a ruse in an alleged attempt to cover up a murder.

"These individuals took advantage of a situation, a city that is already dealing with its own problems," Pugh said at Sunday's news conference. "We’re looking forward to this cruel act being brought to justice."