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Death penalty sought for Smith

MANATEE — The state is seeking the death penalty for murder suspect Delmer Smith III, who is accused of bludgeoning to death Kathleen Briles.

Smith, 38, is charged with murdering Briles last year in her Terra Ceia home with a cast iron sewing machine. Her husband, James Briles, a well known Palmetto doctor, found her body Aug. 3 on the living room floor, bound and beaten to death.

The state will be seeking the death penalty against Smith in a trial that is slated to be more than a year away. Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten announced the decision Monday, but no other details were released.

Before the Briles’ case goes to trial, Smith is scheduled to face trial this fall in Sarasota on numerous charges stemming from four attacks on women in their homes last year. Smith is a suspect in as many as 11 attacks on women in their homes in Manatee and Sarasota counties between February and August 2009.

Prosecutors have accused Smith of attacking four women in their homes, all of whom investigators say were beaten and bound. Investigators say in two attacks, Smith raped two women with a foreign object. Smith also is charged with the home invasion beating of a couple in their 60s in their Bradenton home last year.

Smith’s arrest came after months of investigation in which detectives began to believe many of the attacks were being committed by the same man. In at least two of the attacks, DNA found at the crime scenes were the same. But detectives did not receive a match in federal law enforcement databases.

The break in the case came when authorities arrested Smith after an Aug. 14 bar fight in which police say he beat a man. After the arrest, detectives discovered that Smith was on federal probation and began searching his possessions. They searched a storage bin and found electronics stolen from four attacks in Sarasota, as well as items taken from the Briles’ home.

After discovering Smith had been in federal prison for 15 years for bank robbery, Sarasota detectives learned the FBI had had his DNA sample from prison all along. It had not been entered into federal law enforcement databases after his September 2008 release due to a backlog of entering inmates’ DNA into federal databases.

FBI officials then fast-tracked Smith’s prison DNA sample into law enforcement databases, and DNA from four attacks in Sarasota matched that sample.