Suspect stole Kathleen Briles' life and more, family says

Suspect stole Kathleen Briles' life and more, family says

rdymond@bradenton.comJuly 29, 2012 

MANATEE -- For the Briles family, it all comes down to a little boy named Mason.

Mason is Kathleen Briles' first grandson, but he will never know his grandmother.

She was murdered on Aug. 3, 2009 in her Terra Ceia home. An antique sewing machine found next to her body was later identified by police as the weapon apparently used to blud

geon her to death.

The Briles family is convinced that Delmer Smith III is the killer.

Beginning Monday, the tight-knit Briles family will be in courtroom 5-A at the Manatee County Judicial Center for jury selection as Smith, 41, faces the death penalty if convicted in Briles' slaying.

Family members who plan to watch the trial include Kathleen Briles' husband, Dr. James Briles; her daughter, Kristin Venema, 30; her sons, Calvin, 28, and Curtis, 25; and her in-laws.

Another relative who indicated she would not miss the trial under any circumstances is Briles' sister, Diane Brinker.

Other sisters are coming, too, said Brinker.

"We have waited three years to get to this point," said Dr. Briles, who will have to watch Monday's jury selection via video relay since he is a witness, but can watch the rest of the trial from inside the courtroom. "The state attorneys have put together a good strong case and we have got to go through the process and see what happens.

"I am a proponent of the death penalty, especially in certain instances," Briles added in an interview with the Herald. "If people can understand what took place here and what I found, they would understand it was appropriate in this instance.

"My wife was bound and gagged and was helpless when she was murdered, and that is particularly heinous. So the death penalty fits our case."

Briles doesn't think Smith and his wife ever met until the day she was killed.

"What I think, what I believe, was that there was no association," Briles said.

How can he handle being in court, being so close to the suspect in his wife's death?

"Out of respect and love for my wife, I can't do anything that is not appropriate," Briles said. "But have I thought about jumping over that rail? Oh, absolutely."

Brinker, on the other hand, holds nothing back.

"When he took my sister, he took one of the most precious things in the world," Brinker said. "He is a cowardly animal."

Curtis Briles, a war veteran and a road deputy with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, was Kathleen Briles' "Can-Do-No-Wrong" kid.

"I was the Momma's Boy who got away with everything," Curtis Briles said Friday, bracing himself for the trial to start.

"It's kind of surreal," Briles said. "I was very surprised there was no continuance. I'm glad we started so we can get through this phase and start the healing process.

"I have no doubt this man will get a guilty verdict and end up on death row," Briles said. "Dying there is not equivalent to what he did to Mom, but it is a comfort to know he will die there one day."

Curtis and his wife, Amanda, are Mason's parents.

"If she had gotten to meet Mason, she would be overwhelmed with happiness and joy," said Briles, who married Amanda in June 2009, three months before Kathleen Briles' death. "She always said she couldn't wait to be a grandmother and not take care of me anymore. Mason would have been so happy, spoiled and loved by her. Now, he will never get that chance."

For Kristin Venema, who owns a restaurant on Cortez Road with her husband, the trial is important for closure and justice, but won't change the fact that her mother is gone.

"I'm feeling lots of anxiety," Venema said. "I'm ready to put it behind us. I'm a little worried if things will come together, but I'm hoping for the best."

Dr. Briles married Kathleen Briles in 1992, when Kristin was 11. Her biological dad is not in the picture, she said.

"Dr. Briles is my father," Venema said.

She and Kathleen Briles were like two peas in a pod, she said.

"Nothing will ever change the fact that she's gone," Venema said. "But if we could have some sort of justice for Mom and the family, it will help us go on."

Venema believes she can handle being in the courtroom with Smith.

"I don't pay attention that he is even there," Venema said. "I am not there for him."

Richard Dymond, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service