Crime

PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Authorities try to build Smith cases

MANATEE — Delmer Smith III has been charged with murder and burglary in connection with the death of Kathleen Briles, but Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube on Friday said investigators are still pursuing leads — and a $50,000 reward for information is still being offered.

Meanwhile, investigators in two other jurisdictions Friday were trying to build additional cases in which Smith may be charged, officials said.

Smith, 38, bludgeoned Briles to death Aug. 3 with an iron antique sewing machine, then stole items from her Terra Ceia home, Steube said Thursday.

“We basically made our case on Delmer Smith. There’s lots of investigative work yet to be done,” Steube said Friday.

“There are always loose ends to these types of investigations,” he added. “As I said yesterday, we will continue to follow those leads until we have taken them to the logical conclusion.”

Dr. James Briles on Thursday pleaded for anyone with additional information about the death of his wife to step forward.

“We are still offering a reward and would welcome any more information that would help in this case,” Dr. Briles said at Thursday’s press conference.

“We want to hear from anybody, and don’t care anything about anyone’s personal life,” said Briles’ son, Calvin. “You can do it anonymously, or if not, people should not be scared. (Smith) is not getting out of jail anytime soon.”

One topic investigators would like to know more about in particular is what Smith did during the hours right after Briles was killed.

They think Smith was in the Oneco area near 15th Street East and 53rd Avenue East, from 4 to 7 p.m. that day, said Dave Bristow, a spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“We want to know what he was doing, who he was with, anything informational,” Bristow said.

Officials in three different jurisdictions are trying to build cases against Smith, he said, adding, “We are continuing with the homicide, but we have two home invasions we’re looking into in connection with Smith, where he’s the prime suspect.”

Meanwhile, the Bradenton Police Department and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office were also trying to follow up leads Friday.

Two Bradenton cases may result in charges within the next week or two, said Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski.

In one, a jogger on Riverview Boulevard was robbed and beaten, and in the other, an attorney and his wife were severely beaten during a home invasion, the chief said.

“We’re still investigating, although we’ll probably be filing shortly,” said the chief.

Sarasota sheriff’s detectives are also continuing to mine evidence recovered from several locations, victims’ homes, as well as Smith’s property, said Wendy Rose, spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

“Charges will be filed if possible,” she said.

Smith is already charged with beating and raping several women in their Sarasota homes.

The attack on Briles appeared similar to as many as 11 prior home invasion attacks in Sarasota and Manatee counties, in which women were bound, gagged, beaten and sometimes raped.

At the time of her killing, a joint task force made up of Manatee and Sarasota law enforcement officials had already been formed in response to the home invasions, which had begun in February 2009.

After a Venice fight last summer, in which police say Smith beat two men, a federal probation officer determined that Smith had recently gotten out of federal prison and had violated his bank robbery probation because of the fight.

Investigators then searched a storage unit under his control in Sarasota and found a mountain of stolen property, including many of Briles’ possessions.

Anyone with information may call the Manatee sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011 ; the Sarasota sheriff’s office at (941) 861-4900; or Bradenton police at (941) 932-9300.

— Herald staff writer Robert Napper contributed to this report.

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