Sunday school teacher's husband, stepdaughter arrested for her murder, made up panhandler attack: police

Jacquelyn and Keith Smith
Jacquelyn Smith, 54 (R), and her husband Keith Smith, 52, on the day she was killed; the couple had been enjoying an evening at the American Legion. |

Months after the husband and stepdaughter of beloved Sunday school teacher and professional engineer Jacquelyn Smith claimed she was fatally stabbed by a panhandler, Baltimore police announced Sunday that they have arrested the father-daughter duo for the crime.

Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the late Sunday School teacher’s widower, Keith Smith, 52, and his daughter, Valeria Smith, 28, were arrested by Texas State Police, near the U.S.-Mexico border while trying to flee the country earlier on Sunday, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“The information and evidence points it wasn’t a panhandler,” Harrison said. “People take advantage of Baltimore. We want to make sure the truth comes out and justice is done.”

It was previously reported that at about 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2018, Keith Smith and his late wife, who both taught adult Christian education classes at Helping Hands Ministries in Churchville, were driving home with Valeria, after a celebrating her 28th birthday.

The father-daughter duo claimed while they were at a stop sign in the Johnston Square neighborhood of East Baltimore, Jacquelyn Smith, according to her husband who was driving, saw a woman standing on the side of the road, with what looked like a baby in a blanket and a cardboard sign that said, "Help me feed my baby, God bless."

Smith, who was an electrical engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground at the time of her death, asked her husband to pull over and she rolled down the window and handed the woman $10.

Kevin Smith, Valeria Smith
Kevin Smith, 52 (L), and Valeria Smith, 28 (R). |

“It was drizzling, it was cold, wet and my wife, like any normal person, felt sorry for the baby, which turned out not to even be a baby," Keith Smith told ABC News. "It must have been like a stuffed animal or something wrapped in a blanket. From where we were, it looked like a baby and we thought it was a baby."

The grieving husband said he had seen a man standing next to the panhandling woman but did not realize they were being set up.

"As she was handing her the money, the guy came to say 'Thank you,' and the woman was saying 'God bless you. God bless you,'" Smith recalled. "While we're looking at her saying 'God bless you' and my wife was handing her the money, he came over to the car and said 'Thank you' and then he started stabbing my wife and snatched her necklace off and ran."

Jacquelyn Smith, who was 54 at the time of the attack, died in a local hospital but her death drew national attention and sparked a conversation about the dangers of being a Good Samaritan.

People like billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey raised concern about the attack.

“This story struck my heart. I’ve done this a 1k times. But will think twice before ever doing again. To J.S. family I hope her death gets people ‘woke’ to change!” Winfrey tweeted on Wednesday.

“I’ve done this to (sic) and I have gotten out the car to run across the street to help... my prayers for strength for him & her family,” rapper and record producer Missy Elliot replied to the tweet.

On Sunday, however, Harrison said Keith Smith and his daughter have been charged with first-degree murder.

Several members of Jacquelyn Smith’s family, like her brother Marcel Trisvan of Havre de Grace, told the Baltimore Sun that the family had doubted the initial account of his sister’s death from the beginning.

“I already know it’s Keith,” he said.

Trisvan explained that even though police did not give them any information, detectives had been increasingly asking about his sister’s relationship with her husband.

“All the questioning has been specific to Keith. That kind of sums it right there,” he said. “It never made sense. I told [detectives] from the very beginning there are no suspects out there.”

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said the Smiths exploited the city and its violence.

“Often times, we have these negative depictions of our city and it’s rather unfortunate when people take advantages of these negative perceptions,” she said at the news conference, according to the Sun.

Mayor Catherine Pugh also expressed her disappointment with the alleged actions of the Smiths.

“Like everyone in our city, state and across this nation, we mourned the senseless killing of Jacquelyn Smith. To now learn that family members staged this brutal killing is beyond belief and represents a double tragedy,” Pugh said in a statement Sunday. “They were responsible for taking Jacquelyn's life with unconscionable cruelty and contrived to do so in our city under the guise of random violence, exploiting the legitimate fears of our residents.”

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