2 extradited in slaying tied to charity-gone-wrong story

A truck driver who blamed his wife's slaying on a case of charity gone wrong is being flown back to Baltimore along with his daughter to face murder charges

BALTIMORE -- A Baltimore truck driver who blamed his wife's slaying on a case of charity gone wrong was being flown back to Maryland's biggest city on Wednesday along with his daughter to face murder charges in a case that drew international attention.

It's been one of the more bizarre real-life crime sagas in a city full of them. When electrical engineer Jacquelyn Smith was fatally stabbed in December, her husband said she was attacked after handing $10 to a roadside panhandler who appeared to be holding a baby. The tale of generosity and treachery fueled fresh concerns about Baltimore's high rates of violence.

But earlier this month, city police announced that her husband's story wasn't true and Keith Smith and his 28-year-old daughter were facing first-degree murder charges. The two suspects were arrested March 5 in a Texas border town during what police call a desperate dash for Mexico.

From his office in Texas, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said the pair were extradited Wednesday morning. The father and daughter were escorted onto a plane by three officers. "I'd imagine they're back in Maryland by now," he said during an afternoon phone call.

But Baltimore police and a spokeswoman for the city's top prosecutor did not provide clarity about the pair's location by Wednesday evening. It wasn't immediately clear if they had defense attorneys in Maryland.

When Jacquelyn Smith's Dec. 1 death was initially reported, Keith Smith told police he lowered his white Audi's front passenger side window late at night so his wife could give $10 to a young woman who appeared to be holding a swaddled infant and a sign reading: "Please help me feed my baby." It was then that a man supposedly approached the car, asked if he could thank her, and then supposedly stabbed Jacquelyn Smith while snatching her wallet. The supposed attacker then ran into an alley with the female panhandler and Keith Smith told a TV crew that the beggar yelled out: "God bless you!"

After his wife's death, Keith Smith gave several media interviews, sometimes with his tearful daughter, Valeria, by his side. He lobbied the city to pass legislation to ban panhandling at city intersections, saying he wanted the law to be named for his dead wife.

His version of his wife's slaying drew major attention. Oprah Winfrey, once a newscaster in Baltimore, tweeted that the tragic case would make her reconsider handing out cash to panhandlers.

But a detailed timeline revealed in court documents shows that dogged detective work resulted in the husband and stepdaughter's arrest and murder charges.

Baltimore police detectives first interviewed the father and daughter at the hospital where they brought Jacquelyn Smith, stabbed five times in the chest. Detectives were unable to find a crime scene or any evidence, witnesses or video surveillance footage that supported their story. They ultimately reviewed video footage from 27 cameras.

On Dec. 11, police were notified that the slain woman's credit card was being used. They tracked down three male juveniles who said they found the card in a clutch bag at a bus stop. Police say her bag was found on a corner they allege was consistent with the path of Smith's car as determined by cellphone location information. Authorities had obtained warrants for the pair's cell phones.

On Feb. 12, Keith Smith was told his daughter's phone showed they had driven into a wooded park on the night of the slaying. Smith told investigators he had gotten lost but he didn't want to admit that in his previous statements.

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

Valeria Smith, who was reportedly in the car's back seat during the fatal attack, was also questioned Feb. 12 and requested an attorney. Officials said she was later thought to be living with her father in Florida.

Charging documents also state that a friend told detectives Keith Smith had asked his brother "to get rid of Jacquelyn," taking that to mean he wanted to kill her. Police believe Jacquelyn Smith had talked about divorcing her husband. When Vick Smith was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, police wrote that he alerted his brother, who began seeking a way out of the country.

Police allege Keith Smith tried to book one-way tickets to Cuba and Canada but had no passport. While trying to book a flight to the U.S. Virgin Islands he checked whether it was possible to cross into Mexico, they allege.

The father and daughter were ultimately arrested some 20 minutes from the Mexico border.

It's not Keith Smith's first time in trouble with the law. Two decades ago, he robbed the same bank three times in Timonium, Maryland, armed with a pellet gun. He was caught during the third heist and pleaded guilty to robbery with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to a dozen years but served about six before being paroled in 2007.

He'd been married to Jacquelyn Smith since 2014.


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