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Keith Smith Receives Life Sentence For Wife's 2018 Murder

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A Maryland man was sentenced Monday to life in prison for the 2018 murder of his wife and a subsequent attempt to cover it up.

Smith was convicted in December of first-degree murder and deadly weapon with intent to injure after a week-long trial that saw his daughter testify against him.

Jacquelyn Smith, an Aberdeen Proving Ground engineer, was fatally stabbed Dec. 1, 2018. Her husband called 911 that night, saying a panhandler stabbed his wife.

Her sister, Yzonne Saab, expressed gratitude following the sentence announcement, noting that the verdict was due to the "tremendous" amount of evidence that stacked up against him.

"This didn't bring her back but we were elated and feel that definitely justice was served," Saab said. "And as I said on the record, the judge was very poignant and to the point. You could tell that she really reviewed this case thoroughly and made a decision that made us very happy."

Jacquelyn Smith was intelligent and witty, Saab said. She loved her mother, her two boys—who are both members of the U.S. Coast Guard—and she wanted her marriage to work with Keith, Saab said.

Keith Smith initially told investigators that he had stopped his vehicle in the 1000 block of Valley Street and lowered the window on the passenger side of the vehicle so that Jacquelyn Smith could give $10 to a female panhandler, according to authorities.

"Mr. Smith claimed, at that same moment, a male also walked over to the passenger side of the vehicle where his wife sat and the man asked Mr. Smith if he could thank his wife for giving the woman money," officials said. "Mr. Smith said he replied 'Yes.' He then claimed the man began to stab his wife multiple times, grabbed her necklace and wallet from her lap, and then fled on foot with the female panhandler."

Keith Smith and his daughter fled town after his wife's murder. They were arrested three months later near the U.S.-Mexico border, roughly 1,700 miles from Maryland.

At that point, investigators had obtained cellphone records and wiretap warrants that showed Keith Smith had "placed two phone calls for flight reservations and attempted to book one-way tickets to Cuba and Canada," officials said.

He was unable to implement his initial escape plan because he did not have a U.S. passport to travel out of the country, according to authorities. Keith Smith had asked about the possibility of flying to the U.S. Virgin Islands too.

Investigators also noticed that Keith Smith had used an online search engine to inquire about whether he needed a passport to get to Jamaica or if there was a way to get to Mexico without going through one of the border crossings, according to authorities.

Following the arrest near the U.S.-Mexico border, Valeria Smith "admitted that the panhandler story was a hoax by Keith Smith and that she witnessed when he killed Jacquelyn in Druid Hill Park," officials said.

Valeria Smith pleaded guilty in September 2019 to accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

Testifying against her father, Valeria Smith recalled how the family was celebrating a belated birthday that night when her father took a detour to Druid Hill Park.

At some point, she said, he slowed down and stabbed his wife. She said that her father was calm afterward, but his demeanor changed when he called 911.

She told the court that once her father discarded the murder weapon, a knife, in the woods, he told her to lie to police and say a panhandler stabbed his wife.

A day or two after the murder, she said, her father went to his wife's workplace to get paperwork for her life insurance policy. He was the beneficiary.

An FBI agent also testified, saying Google and cellphone data placed both Smith and his daughter in Druid Hill Park at the time of the murder.

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said on Monday that Keith Smith deserved to spend "the rest of his natural life in prison for his heinous and reprehensible actions."

"Keith Smith will now justly serve a life sentence in prison for violently stabbing his wife to death and then creating an elaborate cover-up plan to cowardly blame panhandlers for his horrific attack," Mosby said. "Today, the public can rest assured that justice was served in a case that manipulated the hearts and minds of our country."

Mosby noted that her victim advocates will continue to support "Jacquelyn Smith's family as they mourn the devastating loss of their loved one."

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