Crime

Grand jury indicts Smith for first-degree murder

MANATEE — A grand jury returned a first-degree murder indictment Monday against Delmer Smith III, a suspect in 12 brutal attacks including the slaying of a Terra Ceia woman.

Smith, 38, is accused of killing 49-year-old Kathleen Briles, who was bludgeoned to death inside her home Aug. 3. Police say Smith hit her in the head with a sewing machine during a home invasion robbery.

Brian Iten, assistant state attorney, said Smith’s arraignment in the case has not been set.

Smith, who remains in the Sarasota County jail, is expected to be arraigned by the end of next week, Iten said.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Smith would be sentenced to life in prison or to the death penalty. Prosecutors will have 45 days after his arraignment to determine whether to seek Smith's execution.

Smith was charged Oct. 5 with attacking four women in their Sarasota homes, raping two.

While the pending cases cannot be tried together, Iten said if there are enough similarities proven between the cases, the state can mention them in court.

Smith served 15 years for bank robbery as a federal inmate. He violated his probation when he was arrested Aug. 14 after getting into a fight at a Venice bar.

His arrest led authorities to a storage unit where many of the items taken in the home invasions were stored.

Smith has been formally charged in five of the 12 linked attacks. Authorities continue to investigate the cases and expect more charges to follow.

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.

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