Trial date set for Smith in home invasion case

SARASOTA — She came to see Delmer Smith III in court Wednesday. His DNA, Sarasota detectives say, was found in her home last year during the processing of the scene after a brutal home invasion attack.

As one of numerous women beaten in a string of assaults in Sarasota and Manatee counties last year, the woman’s visible wounds have healed, but her desire for justice brought her to the Sarasota courthouse.

The woman minced no words outside a courtroom in describing what her attacker did to her. Sheriff’s reports say her attacker beat her, breaking her jaw in several places among other injuries, and tied her up.

“He beat the hell out of me,” said the slight woman, who was 59 at the time of the March attack.

Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office detectives say the woman is one of at least four Smith brutally beat and bound in their homes between February and May of last year.

Two of the women were raped in the attacks, which took place in homes where investigators later found Smith’s DNA, according to sheriff’s reports.

On Wednesday, Smith, 38, refused to appear for a preliminary hearing on home invasion, sexual battery and false imprisonment charges stemming from the attacks.

Smith’s attorney waived his right to a speedy trial, and Sarasota Circuit Judge Rochelle Curley set a trial for Nov. 8.

In addition to the Sarasota cases, authorities in Manatee are still investigating whether Smith had anything to do with five similar attacks last year.

Smith has also not been ruled out as a suspect in the August killing of Kathleen Briles in her Terra Ceia home, according to Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube. He is also a suspect in the April 5 beating death of a Sarasota woman in her home.

Police also have not ruled out Smith as the attacker of a Bradenton couple in their 60s, found bound and beaten in their Northwest Bradenton home last April, according to Bradenton Police Deputy Chief William Tokajer.

Smith is also a suspect in the attack last February of a 52-year-old woman jogging on 26th Street Northwest, Tokajer said.

The investigation and eventual capture of Smith in October revealed flaws in the DNA processing system.

Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office officials said Smith’s DNA found in the home of the four victims gave them enough to make an arrest. It was later revealed that the FBI had Smith’s DNA since March 2009, but had not entered it into federal databases due to a backlog of entering federal inmates’ DNA samples.

Prior to the attack, Smith had been in federal prison for 15 years for a bank robbery, and his DNA was taken prior to his release on probation in September 2008.

Sarasota detectives had DNA from an attack as early as Feb. 22, but did not obtain a hit because Smith’s DNA taken in prison was not entered until local detectives made a special request to the FBI.

Smith is being held without bond in the Sarasota County jail as he awaits trial. He has already been sentenced to two years in prison for violating his federal probation, and has a federal hold him keeping him in jail.

Robert Napper, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024.