Crime

Smith charged in another home invasion

MANATEE — Bradenton police detectives Friday charged murder suspect Delmer Smith III with a home invasion attack last year in which he allegedly hog tied a couple in their Bradenton home and ruthlessly beat them.

Smith, who is suspected in a dozen attacks between Sarasota and Manatee counties, had detectives serve him a warrant for home invasion robbery Friday afternoon at Manatee County jail, bringing the number of cases he has been charged to six.

In the April 20, 2009, attack, Smith allegedly took money and jewelry from a couple’s residence in the 200 block of 32nd Avenue Northwest, according to authorities.

Smith, 38, tied up a 61-year-old woman and her 62-year-old husband using electrical cords, and then gagged them with their bed sheets, according to the warrant.

The couple was taken to Bayfront Medical Center after the attack. The woman suffered a deep cut above her left eyebrow and a broken nose from one of Smith’s punches, according to the warrant.

The husband told police he remembered a masked man lifting his head and smashing his face into the wooden floor, according to the warrant.

The husband, who had numerous teeth knocked out at the root, eventually blacked out and was unsure how many times he was beaten, the warrant said.

Using cell phone records and DNA found on digital camera stolen from the couple, and by linking similarities to other area attacks, Bradenton police say they have built a strong case against Smith.

“We knew Delmer Smith was in jail and not going anywhere, so we were meticulous in building a case and collecting evidence,” said Bradenton Police Detective James Curulla. “We wanted to give closure to the victims and give the State Attorney’s Office the strongest case we could so Smith doesn’t see the light of day.”

On March 10, the DNA results from the incident came back from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab matching Smith, according to the warrant.

Curulla served Smith with the warrant at the Manatee County jail Friday afternoon.

Also Friday, Smith was transported to Manatee County from the Sarasota County jail to be arraigned on a first-degree murder charge accusing him of bludgeoning Kathleen Briles to death with a sewing machine in her Terra Ceia home Aug. 3. The arraignment, however, was postponed as the two agencies that handle the majority of indigent cases in Manatee are in disagreement over who should take his case.

Detectives from law enforcement agencies in Manatee and Sarasota counties formed a task force after as many as 12 attacks last year across the area showed similarities. In many of the cases, the intruder had a red back pack, was clad in all black with a black ski mask and wore black gloves to leave no prints, according to authorities. The items taken were mostly nominal, but the attacks themselves against the victims were brutal, and the intruder also made reference to feeding a drug habit, authorities said.

Curulla said the April 20, 2009, attack showed the same method of operation as four of the Sarasota cases in which charges against Smith have been filed.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit for the April 20, 2009, incident: The woman was gardening before heading indoors for lunch when Smith allegedly grabbed her from behind, making her drop a glass of tea. He forced her inside her residence at gunpoint.

He held the gun to her face and asked, “Where is your purse? Where’s your purse? I need crack I want crack!” according to the affidavit.

The woman gave Smith her purse, he opened it and took $50 in cash and continued to tell her he needed crack, the affidavit said.

Smith then asked for the woman’s wedding ring. She told him it was in the jewelry box and he emptied it, but never found the ring. The woman told Smith her husband would be returning home for lunch soon. He told her he had watched her for a year, according to the affidavit.

When the woman’s husband arrived at the home, Smith ordered him to the ground with the gun, the affidavit said, and Smith stated he had a partner waiting outside. He took the man’s wallet and wedding band.

Smith then tied up the husband and had the wife empty out jewelry drawers before also tying her up with electrical cords, according to the affidavit.

After beating the couple, Smith took the couple’s cell phones, the affidavit said.

When the couple came to, they remembered lying on the ground and helping each other so the husband could free himself and go to a neighbor’s home for help, according to the affidavit.

The couple could not be reached for comment at their residence Friday.

“I think they’re relieved,” Curulla said. “They have closure.”

Bradenton Police are still waiting on evidence from the lab to come back in the another attack where a woman was attacked and robbed while jogging near Riverview Boulevard Feb. 16, 2009. Smith is suspected in that case, according to police.

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