Woman's Family Said Panhandler Killed Her, Now Husband & Daughter Charged With Murder

Jacquelyn Smith's killing made headlines nationally – and celebrities including Oprah Winfrey spoke out about being more cautious when approached by people asking for money on the street.

March 04, 2019

Photo by: Keith Smith; Valeria Smith [Baltimore Police Department]

Keith Smith; Valeria Smith [Baltimore Police Department]

By: Catherine Townsend

BALTIMORE, MD — Three months ago, a Baltimore husband tearfully pleaded on camera for help in finding the panhandler who stabbed his wife to death. Now Baltimore police say that Keith Smith and his stepdaughter Valeria Smith masterminded the murder.

Jacquelyn Smith, a 54-year-old engineer, was stabbed to death in the early morning hours of December 1. At the time, Keith claimed she was ambushed and stabbed while she was giving money to a panhandler.

Texas police have arrested Keith, 52, and Valeria, 28, just 20 miles from the Mexican border while they were trying to leave the country. Both have been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Jacquelyn's death.

Mayor Catherine Pugh released a statement on Sunday that Jacquelyn was killed by her family members in what he called a "staged brutal killing,” CBS Baltimore reports.

The murder made headlines nationally – and celebrities including Oprah Winfrey spoke out about being more cautious when approached by people asking for money on the street.

"Like everyone in our city, state, and across this nation, we mourned the senseless killing of Jacquelyn Smith. To now learn that family members staged this brutal killing is beyond belief and represents a double tragedy,” Pugh said. “They were responsible for taking Jacquelyn's life with unconscionable cruelty, and contrived to do so in our city under the guise of random violence, exploiting the legitimate fears of our residents. I commend our homicide detectives for their expert and tireless work in bringing those truly responsible to justice in this very troubling and sad case."

Keith claimed that his wife was giving cash to a woman who was begging when a man approached the car window, pulled out a knife, and stabbed and robbed her. Keith stated that the panhandler “snatched her [Jacquelyn’s] necklace, and before I knew it, the girl snatched the little pocketbook from the seat and they both ran."
He added: "I jumped out the car to run, but I heard my wife screaming, so I came back to the car."

But Baltimore City Police said that their investigation led to the conclusion that the murder was actually planned by Keith and Valeria.

Jacquelyn's family reportedly suspected Keith from the beginning, according to her brother Marcel Trisvan. "I already know it’s Keith," Trisvan said.

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said she was “disappointed that the two alleged suspects attempted to take advantage of negative perceptions of our city” and added that she looked forward to fighting for justice for Smith’s family in court.

Read more: CBS News, Metro

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