Delmer Smith III sentenced to death for murder of Kathleen Briles

jdeleon@bradenton.comMay 28, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Dr. James Briles walked out of the Manatee Judicial Center holding a picture of his wife in his hands.

"Justice for Kathleen," Briles said. "We have been waiting almost three long years for this day."

Briles and his family rejoiced Tuesday after Judge Peter Dubensky sentenced Smith to death by lethal injection for beating Kathleen Briles to death Aug. 3, 2009, in her Terra Ceia home.

"It is the judgment of this court, that for the death of Kathleen Briles, the defendant Delmer Smith be sentenced to death in the manner prescribed by law," Dubensky said.

The courtroom was flooded with emotion from Briles' family and friends.

Smith, however, insisted he was innocent, asking to address the courtroom prior to Dubensky reading the verdict.

"Before I begin addressing the court, I would like to sincerely express my condolences to the family and friends of Kathleen Briles, that they will get closer and closer to the truth," Smith said.

According to Smith, two heinous crimes were committed.

"The first, Kathleen Briles was brutally murdered," Smith said. "The second, Manatee County state's attorney used false evidence to implicate and later convict me of the crime."

Smith said the court was condemning him for crime he did not commit.

"It is in the court's hand to intercede and stop this injustice," Smith said.

Smith was convicted Aug. 2, 2012, for first-degree murder and armed burglary by a jury that later unanimously recommend the death penalty.

Kathleen Briles had arrived home from a routine grocery store visit when she was attacked.

She was bound and beaten.

Ultimately, Smith killed her by hitting her on the head with a 23-pound metal antique sewing machine.

In April, defense attorneys tried to save Smith's life by presenting evidence of what they said were brain abnormalities that made him less responsible for the crime. They asked Dubensky to sentence him to life in prison without parole.

Dubensky said Tuesday he was not convinced of the brain abnormality claim.

"All of his behavior on the day of the murder and days after appears cold, calculated, rational and goal-directed," Dubensky said.

Smith is already serving a life sentence for a March 14, 2009, home invasion robbery in Sarasota County. Authorities say Smith is a suspect in several other home invasions that spring and summer in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten spoke on the death sentence after the hearing.

"We are certainly very pleased. This is justice for Kathleen," Iten said. "Nothing is going to bring her back, but this is an important day for the Briles family."

MSO Sheriff Brad Steube, whose agency investigated Briles' death, called the death sentence "appropriate."

After the hearing, James Briles also reflected on his wife's life and what she missed out on.

She never got to meet her grandson.

She never got to see her son come home safe from the war in Iraq.

She never will be witness to all the successes of her children.

"There are other victims out there that will never get their day in court. I want them all to take this conviction and this sentencing as part of their victory," Briles said. "Kathleen would have it wanted it like that. It will honor Kathleen if they take it away as their victory."

Briles thanked all those who helped him find "justice for Kathleen."

"Old friends came around, new friends came around, complete strangers offered their condolences," Briles said.

Briles quoted German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to describe his wife's killer.

"Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their true selves," Briles said. "Well, Delmer Smith's behavior showed us that he is a sociopathic murderous pig."

Briles recalled how his wife was bound and gagged and left helpless.

"Delmer Smith put himself in these situations with free will, he robbed people of free will, he beat people of free will and he murdered people of free will," Briles said. "He knew what he was doing was wrong. He covered his tracks to make sure he was not found out. It was all in free will."

Jessica De Leon, Law Enforcement Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeleon1012.

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