Sheriff: Delmer Smith killed Kathleen Briles

Delmer Smith, the suspect in several home invasion attacks in Manatee and Sarasota counties, is being charged with killing Kathleen Briles in her Terra Ceia home last August, according to Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube.

The murder weapon was a sewing machine used to beat Briles to death, according to investigators.

Steube said Smith was found to be holding items taken from Briles' home during the attack.

Smith has been in custody since October when he was charged with four home invasions in Sarasota. Officials in Manatee have said he was a possible suspect in several attacks here, and Steube had refused to rule him out as a suspect in Briles death.

Smith has been served in the Sarasota County jail with warrants charging him with murder and burglary in Briles' beating death.

Steube said the arrest is based on property found in a storage bin used by Smith. Briles' family told investigators that the items came from her home.

Detectives believe Smith went so far as to carry his car keys on a rare Minnie Mouse key chain Dr. Briles gave to his wife as a wedding anniversary gift, which detectives say he stole from the Briles’ home. Sheriff’s reports say they found the key chain with keys on it in a storage facility under Smith’s control.

Car keys on the key chain were later used to open locks and turn on the ignition of a Chevrolet Blazer Smith owned and sold on Aug. 31, four weeks after Dr. Briles found his wife dead, according to sheriff’s reports.

Detectives say Smith also stole a medical encyclopedia from the home that turned up in the storage bin, which one of Smith’s girlfriend’s later told detectives she saw on the front seat of Smith’s car nine days after the killing.

When asked how she could pinpoint the date, the girlfriend said: “Because it was on the front seat of his car and it was the first time we had sex,” the sheriff’s report states.

Both Briles and his son, who is in medical school, identified the book as being part of the doctor’s collection when detectives showed it to them.

Detectives also believe that Smith employed an accomplice to sell a necklace later found to be owned by Kathleen Briles. The witness told detectives she sold it to a pawn shop for Smith, but the accomplice is not believed to be involved in Briles’ slaying, according sheriff’s officials.

Briles’ daughter later identified the necklace when shown by detectives, breaking down crying.

“That’s my mom’s necklace. I wore it four times, to two proms, graduation and my wedding,” she told the detective.

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