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Smith’s girlfriends involved in probe

Accused murder suspect Delmer Smith III had a lot of women in his life during the time authorities say he attacked several women and bludgeoned Kathleen Briles to death in her Terra Ceia home.

Investigators say the women had no knowledge of the crimes he is accused of, but they all became part of the investigation that led to Smith’s arrest on murder, home invasion robbery, sexual battery and false imprisonment charges.

Smith, 38, a former federal inmate of 15 years for bank robbery, has been charged with attacking four women in their Sarasota homes, raping two, and killing Briles by hitting her in the head with a sewing machine during a home invasion robbery.

In less than a year, four women had contact with Smith after authorities say Smith divorced a 61-year-old Bradenton woman he met as a pen pal while in prison and with whom he lived with after his September 2008 release.

But that lasted only two months as Smith began dating a 37-year-old woman who worked at a Home Depot store in Bradenton, according to court records.

He quickly moved into the woman’s North Port home in November 2008 and they began a relationship.

Smith began coming home with computers, iPods, a 50-inch television and other electronics, even though the girlfriend later told detectives she never saw Smith with a paycheck from jobs he claimed to have.

Meanwhile, detectives began investigating a string of attacks in which as many as 11 women were severely beaten and robbed in their homes between February and May 2009. Then in August, Palmetto Dr. James Briles returned home to find his wife beaten to death in their living room.

Sometime during the relationship, Smith became romantically involved with another 37-year-old woman who lived on the same street as Smith’s live-in girlfriend. The second relationship led to a pregnancy, and Smith’s live-in girlfriend told detectives she kicked him out of her house in August.

Smith continued to date the woman pregnant with his child, and a third woman in the North Port area, but was arrested on Aug. 14 after a bar fight in Venice.

Federal authorities arrested him for violating his probation, and he began making calls to the women to empty out a storage bin filled with electronics and weapons, court records show.

“I need you to go to storage, it’s very important, there’s something in there that shouldn’t be,” Smith told his girlfriend during a recorded phone call from jail.

The woman emptied the storage bin, but later called authorities and told them of the items, which were later found to include laptops stolen during four violent home invasion attacks, and items stolen from the Briles home. Detectives also found Smith’s DNA in the homes where the four Sarasota attacks took place.

Smith was found to have been living in the Capri Isles condominium of a fourth woman at the time of his arrest. All four women have been questioned and cooperated with authorities during the investigation into Smith.

In addition to the women in Smith’s life, a Sarasota man detectives are calling an “associate” of Smith has been arrested on charges of selling jewelry found to have been taken from the Briles home. James Cellecz, 31, also helped Smith wash hard drives from several stolen laptops, according to court documents.

Cellecz, a convicted sex offender for a 1999 arrest for possessing a picture showing a sexual performance of a child, is not believed to have knowledge of the home invasions or Briles’ killing, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dave Bristow.

In addition to the Manatee charges stemming from the Briles case, Cellecz has also been sentenced to 15 months in prison and three years probation for failing to register as a sex offender and possession of drug paraphernalia in Sarasota.

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