Crime

Delmer Smith gets life in prison for Sarasota home invasion, kidnapping

SARASOTA -- Delmer Smith III was sentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday after being found guilty earlier this month of breaking into a Sarasota home and ransacking it after tying up a woman with electrical cords.

During the sentencing hearing, Smith, garbed in a yellow jump suit and brown sandals, told the court he had nothing to do with the March 14, 2009, attack. He said the trial that ended Dec. 8 wasn’t fair because many factors had been left out, including the victim’s 911 call during which she described the suspect as a black male and the deputies who refused to turn in his DNA.

“I am innocent of all these charges,” Smith said, adding that he would bring out the truth through the appeals process.

Smith, 40, has 30 days to appeal.

After his sentencing, Smith’s fingerprints were taken inside the courtroom. Among the crowd in the courtroom was Nicole Mitchell, the victim in the case, and Dr. James Briles, the widower of Kathleen Briles, who was allegedly killed by Smith in her Terra Ceia home.

Briles smiled after the sentencing. A person among the crowd whispered, “That’s a beautiful sight.”

Outside the courtroom, Diane Brinker, Kathleen’s sister, hugged prosecutor Elizabeth Scanlan.

There are other trials of Smith pending in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

On Feb. 27, Smith is scheduled to go to trial in Manatee County, court records show, for an April 21, 2009, home invasion. In that case, Smith allegedly grabbed a 61-year-old woman from behind and forced her into her home in the 200 block of 32nd Street Northwest in Bradenton, an arrest warrant affidavit shows. Once inside, Smith, wearing a ski mask and black clothing, placed a gun to the victim’s face and said, “Where is your purse ... I need crack,” the affidavit shows.

Smith then allegedly emptied the woman’s jewelry box and stole money, a jar of change and a Kodak digital camera, among other items. When her husband came home, Smith allegedly pointed the gun at him. He then tied both victims and gagged their mouths. In this case, Smith was charged with armed home invasion robbery and can face life in prison.

Smith is also slated to go to trial July 16, court records show. In this case, Smith is charged with bludgeoning Briles to death with an antique sewing machine in her Terra Ceia home Aug. 3, 2009. Her husband discovered her bound and gagged at their home, court records show. Smith is charged with first-degree murder and burglary.

If found guilty of murder, he could face the death penalty.

Briles was present during every day of the home invasion trial.

When asked what goes through his mind when he is sitting several feet away from Smith in court, Briles said earlier this month, “I can’t tell you because it’s not printable.”

“It has to be done for Kathleen,” Briles said. “We’re going to see this through until justice is served.”

Two other home invasion trials in Sarasota are set for September, Scanlan said after Wednesday’s hearing.

Smith is suspected in as many as 10 home invasion robberies -- five in Manatee County and five in Sarasota County -- between February and August 2009. During one home invasion, he is accused of sexually assaulting one woman.

“When he’s not breathing ... then I’ll be happy,” Brinker said outside the courtroom.

Laura C. Morel, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 941-745-7041.

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