On the day Manatee authorities charged Delmer Smith III with murder in the death of Kathleen Briles, he called his new girlfriend from jail and lied to her about his arrest.
The inmate — accused of bludgeoning Briles to death with a sewing machine in her Terra Ceia home — then went on to spend the majority of a 16-minute phone call from the Sarasota County jail Feb. 11 trying to convince the woman he didn’t commit the crime, according to hours of jail recordings of telephone calls obtained by the Bradenton Herald in an open records request.
“Do you remember something in Manatee where someone got hurt, or something like that?” Smith asked his girlfriend hours after being served with the murder warrant in Briles’ killing.
“Yeah,” the 44-year-old woman answered.
“Well, something happened, I have no idea, I swear to you.”
On Aug. 3, well-known Palmetto Dr. James Briles came home to find his wife in a pool of blood in their living room.
On Feb. 11, Manatee detectives charged him with murder after finding items stolen from the Briles home in a storage unit rented by Smith. He also faces rape, home invasion robbery and false imprisonment charges in Sarasota stemming from attacks on four women in their homes. He is a suspect in as many as 11 similar home invasions in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
“Did they charge you, honey?” the girlfriend asked.
“No. I haven’t gotten charged yet. Like my lawyer said, just because they charge you with something doesn’t mean you are guilty.”
“I know that. But did they charge you or did they not?” the girlfriend continued to ask. “They have not.”
The woman then revealed to Smith that his arrest in Briles’ killing had been on the news, and that the girlfriend’s family had seen it.
“It’s all over the news.”
“Unbelievable,” Smith said.
“Yeah, so that’s it, wow,” Smith replied.
His girlfriend can be heard sighing. The Herald is not identifying the woman yet because she has not been charged with a crime.
“So how was your day?” he asks, making small talk for several minutes about television and his girlfriend’s job.
Smith then turned back to the charges against him.
“Don’t let none of this spook you. Titles don’t mean nothing.”
“Oh God, baby, this is bad, because they said it’s murder,” she said.
Smith then asks about his girlfriend’s family seeing the news of his arrest.
“Did they say something to you?” Smith asks.
“Yeah, they said they saw it all over the news.”
“I bet you got an earful, huh?”
“MMMhhmm,” the girlfriend affirmed.
“I’m sorry,” Smith replied.
“It’s all right. It’s not your fault.”
“What’s goin’ on in your head?” Smith asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, I just feel nauseous about this whole thing. I’m fightin’, but you know I believe in you, my heart is there. I believe in you, but I’m scared of what we are going to go through, what you are going to go through.”
The girlfriend then quizzes Smith about whether he had been charged with Briles’ killing.
“But then again they haven’t charged you yet. This is their way of stirring it all up, putting it on the news,” she said. “Right. But like the attorney said, just because they charge you that doesn’t make you guilty,” he replied.
“But you haven’t been charged. Right? Were you or were you not charged?”
“I was not charged, baby. That don’t mean they won’t try to pull a rabbit out of a hat,” Smith said.
The girlfriend has had numerous telephone conversations with Smith since his arrest in September after a bar fight in Venice.
Sarasota County Sheriff’s detectives say Smith is conning the woman, and the proof of that is the lies he has told her in recent months while he is in jail.
Detectives have sought to interview the woman about Smith, but she has refused, according to Sarasota County Sheriff’s Detective Mike Dumer.
“We want to talk to her,” Dumer said.
The woman’s lack of cooperation with authorities causes anger to well up in Dr. Briles.
“I would like to show her some crime scene photos of what I saw that day,” he said. “Maybe then, she might see who he really is.”