Husband and daughter ‘staged woman’s panhandler murder’

Keith Smith and Jacquelyn Smith Image copyright Keith Smith/Facebook
Image caption Keith Smith has been accused of staging his wife’s murder

A man who claimed his wife was stabbed to death by a panhandler in a robbery last year has now been arrested for her murder, Maryland police say.

Keith Smith, 52, and his daughter, Valeria, 28, were arrested on Sunday near the US-Mexico border in Texas and charged with killing Jacquelyn Smith.

The family told police in December Mrs Smith, 54, was attacked in their car after offering a homeless woman money.

The case made national headlines and sparked fear of homeless residents.

Mrs Smith was murdered near midnight on 1 December, 2018, in East Baltimore, according to police.

Mr Smith and Ms Valeria Smith, who was the victim’s step-daughter, reported to police that the family was driving when they saw a woman on the street holding a baby, with a sign asking for food.

Mr Smith said they pulled over and Mrs Smith rolled down her window to offer the woman some money.

A man then approached the vehicle and tried to steal Mrs Smith’s wallet. In the struggle, he stabbed her and ran away. The family called 911, but Mrs Smith later died in hospital.

Image copyright Keith Smith/Facebook
Image caption Jacquelyn Smith was murdered in December

At the time, Mr Smith and his daughter had expressed their grief and shock over Mrs Smith’s death to several media outlets.

Baltimore police have now charged both with first degree murder, but have not commented on a motive.

At a news conference on Sunday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the case was “a terrible tragedy”.

Mr Harrison said negative stereotypes about Baltimore helped contribute to the believability of the suspects’ report.

“The information and the evidence points to: It was not a panhandler,” Mr Harrison said. “The circumstances were very different and people took advantage of Baltimore.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement that the “brutal killing” was “a double tragedy”, accusing the family of murdering Mrs Smith “with unconscionably cruelty” and “exploiting the legitimate fears of our residents”.

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