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Man who claimed a Baltimore panhandler killed his wife before he fled for Mexico goes on trial

Tim Prudente, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE — Even in a city hardened to senseless violence, the killing of Jacquelyn Smith was shocking.

The 54-year-old engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground was stabbed in her chest while driving with her husband and stepdaughter through a desolate stretch of East Baltimore three years ago. Her husband told police Jacquelyn had passed $10 out the window to a couple panhandling with a baby, but that they snatched her necklace, stole the wallet from her lap and stabbed her repeatedly.

Her husband drove her to a hospital and told police Jacquelyn was fatally wounded during an act of charity — three weeks before Christmas 2018, no less. The crime alarmed people across the country. “This story struck my heart. I’ve done this a 1k times. But will think twice before ever doing again,” Oprah Winfrey wrote online about Jacquelyn’s act of charity.

Only detectives found none of it was true.

Jacquelyn’s husband, Keith T. Smith, allegedly carried out the crime and concocted the tale, fooling everyone long enough to almost reach the U.S. border with Mexico. His murder trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Jacquelyn’s older brother, Marcel Trisvan, has waited three years for him to stand trial.

 

“It’s been without closure, you know?” he said Monday. “I’m still not feeling like my sister is at peace yet with all this lingering; it’s actually pretty haunting.”

Smith, 55, a tractor-trailer driver, faces counts of first-degree murder and a weapons charge. A first-degree murder conviction brings a maximum penalty of life in prison. Smith served about six years in prison in the early 2000s for robbing a Timonium bank with a pellet gun.

His defense attorney in the homicide case, Natalie Finegar, declined to comment, as did prosecutors.

His daughter, Valeria Smith, 31, admitted in September 2019 to a role in the cover-up. She pleaded guilty to acting as an accessory after a murder and faces 10 years in prison. She’s to be sentenced Dec. 13 — after her father’s trial. Under her plea deal, she is to testify against him.

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