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Police: Suspect who blamed panhandler sought brother’s help

Keith Smith is shown in an undated photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department. On March 3, 2019 the Baltimore Police Department announced the apprehension and arrest of Keith Smith of Baltimore, and Valeria Shavon Smith, in the December 1, 2018 murder of Jacquelyn Anne Smith. Keith Smith was Jacquelyn Anne Smith’s husband and Valeria Smith was her step-daughter. (Baltimore Police Department via AP)

BALTIMORE (AP) — A man accused of killing his wife and blaming her death on a Baltimore panhandler had asked his brother to help “get rid” of her, police said in charging documents.

The documents first obtained by The Baltimore Sun 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 last week, police wrote that he alerted his brother, who began seeking a way out of the country.

When Jacquelyn Smith, an electrical engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, was fatally stabbed in December, Keith Smith told police she had rolled down her window to give $10 to a panhandler with a baby. The tale drew national attention, prompting some to regard panhandlers warily.

But on Sunday, three months after Jacquelyn Smith’s death, police announced that her husband’s story wasn’t true and Keith Smith and his daughter were facing first-degree murder charges after their arrests in Texas.

Baltimore Police are expected to bring the Smiths back to Baltimore on March 20. A Cameron County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Lt. Joe Elizardi, said Friday that the suspects did not wish to speak with reporters.

Police note discrepancies in Keith Smith’s account of the stabbing and their route that night. Detectives tried to retrace the route with Keith and Valeria Smith, but 27 surveillance cameras along the route they described showed no sign of Smith’s car, police wrote.

In February, police obtained a wiretap for the Smiths’ phones. The Smiths’ cellphone signals show they stopped in Druid Hill Park for about 15 minutes, police said, but neither mentioned it. Valeria Smith said they were never there, police wrote. When asked in an interview, Keith Smith said he hadn’t wanted to admit that he got lost and said they sat in the park looking at pictures in his phone, police wrote.

“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 wrote.

Keith Smith signed a lease on a home in Winter Haven on Feb. 21 and his daughter was believed to be living with him, Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sherrie M. Morgan told The Baltimore Sun.

Meanwhile, a detective spoke to one of Keith Smith’s close friends, Donnell Morgan. He told the detective that Vick Smith told him his brother, Keith, had asked him to “get rid of Jacquelyn,” police wrote. Days later, Vick Smith told detectives his brother told him that Jacquelyn Smith “was talking about divorcing Keith.” After he left police headquarters, police wrote that Vick Smith called his brother, who said he didn’t want to talk “because you know everything got ears now.”

Nothing in the documents related to Keith and Valeria Smith indicates that Vick Smith helped with any alleged plot. He did not respond to phone messages.

Morgan told The Baltimore Sun that he has known Keith Smith for 30 years and was his best man, but declined to discuss the case.

“It breaks my heart,” he said.

Last week, Vick Smith alerted his brother that he had been served a subpoena to testify before a grand jury, police wrote. That evening, police tracked Keith Smith’s efforts to orchestrate a getaway. He tried unsuccessfully to get a cash advance and to book one-way flights out of the country, including Cuba and Canada, police said. But without a passport, he couldn’t book the flights. He asked search engines if he needed a passport to go to Jamaica and for ways to travel to Mexico without going through the border.

The next day Smith rented a car and drove it south through Texas, where a “be on the lookout” alert was issued to law enforcement through the Department of Homeland Security, investigators said.

As detectives wrote their arrest warrant on Sunday morning, they noted Keith and Valeria Smith were 20 minutes from the border.

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