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Delmer Smith found guilty of home invasion, kidnapping in Sarasota

SARASOTA -- Delmer Smith III today was found guilty of home invasion robbery and armed kidnapping for a March 2009 attack in Sarasota.

The jury deliberated about 50 minutes before reaching a verdict, which was announced about 4:15 p.m. The trial, which featured Smith taking the stand in his own defense earlier today, lasted almost three days.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Elizabeth Scanlan said that besides finding the victim's property in Smith's possession, “We have so much more evidence than that. He left his DNA all over her house.”

Although defense attorney Marjorie Bender said earlier in the trial that the sweat droplets found at the Sarasota house after the March 2009 crime were stained, Scanlan said, “he was dirty. That's it.”

Bender reminded the jury that the victim could not remember the colors of the gun and said her attacker had an African American accent.

“Memories fade,” Bender said. “Things that we want to believe start to become truth because we want to believe it.”

Bender said that Smith, who weighed more than 200 pounds during the time of the attack, could not fit through the window where the attacker entered the home, adding that James Cellecz, the man who Smith testified sold him the victim's stolen items, was a better fit because he was “someone who fits the height and weight of the person who actually committed this crime.”

Bender also said that Smith could have been the personal trainer of the person who lived in the victim's home before she moved in, which would explain his sweat droplets on the floor.

But Scanlan said the droplets found in the pantry, kitchen, living room and bedroom were fresh.

Testimony in the trial ended this morning, but not before Smith took the stand in his own defense.

During his testimony, Smith said Cellecz gave him a receipt for his purchase of the victim's laptop. But Scanlan said during closing arguments that the serial number on the receipt for the laptop he purchased does not match the serial number of the victim's laptop.

“This receipt has absolutely nothing to do with this computer,” Scanlan said. “He got that computer when he stole it from [the victim's] house.”

Smith is the suspect in as many as 11 home invasion robberies in Manatee and Sarasota counties in 2009.

He is set to stand trial next year for the Aug. 3, 2009, beating death of Kathleen Briles in her Terra Ceia home. He could be sentenced to death if found guilty of first-degree murder.

Follow Laura Morel on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/lauracmorel.

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