BALTIMORE — Nearly four months after sharing the shocking story of his wife Jacquelyn’s murder at the hands of a Baltimore panhandler on Dec. 1, 2018, Keith Smith and his daughter Valeria felt the encroaching pursuit of police as detectives methodically deconstructed their original story, setting their sites on the father-daughter duo as the likely killers, according to charging documents released Thursday.
Already in Winter Park, Fla. under the guise of a work relocation, Keith was informed by his brother Vick that a Grand Jury was being shown evidence potentially implicating Keith and his daughter in Jacquelyn’s killing.
Following that Feb. 28 phone call, Keith began investigating possible destinations to relocate. Little did he know, police were monitoring his phone communication and online activity at the time.
Keith placed calls to inquire about a one-way ticket to Cuba and Canada, but he was not able to secure a reservation because he did not have a U.S. passport. During the calls, he asked if traveling to the Virgin Islands was possible without a passport, to which he was advised he could go to the U.S. Virgin Islands with just his driver’s license. While looking into a flight to that Caribbean destination, he also searched online if he could travel to Jamaica or cross the U.S./Mexico border without a passport. He then called USAA to find out about getting a cash advance on his American Express card, to which he was denied.
As police wrote a warrant for Keith and Valeria’s arrest on March 3, the pair were known to be heading towards the Mexican border, getting to within a roughly 20-minute drive of the international crossing.
“Based on the results of this investigation and Mr. Smith’s attempt to flee the country," the charging documents said, "the investigation has failed to provide suspects other than Mr. and Ms. Smith."
Keith and Valeria were intercepted by law enforcement in Cameron County Texas before they could seek refuge south of the border on the morning of March 3. Baltimore Detectives headed to the Lone Star State early the next week to begin the formal charging and eventual extradition process so the pair could return to Baltimore to face justice. They departed Texas on March 20.
“Let's be realistic – We would all love to take a vacation to Mexico, you know," said Brandon Mead, Valeria Smith's attorney. "You get a chance to go to Mexico, you say, 'Yes!' Her dad says, 'Hey, let's head on down to Mexico. Let's take a little family vacation. Some R-and-R.' I don't see there being at criminal element to that.”
Shortly after midnight on March 21, Keith and Valeria Smith were formally processed at Central Booking. They face the same litany of charges: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree, conspiracy to commit assault in the second degree, and use of a dangerous weapon with the intent to injure.
“There were no charges when she went down to Mexico," Mead said. "Nothing was pending. The State's Attorney kind of scrambled, threw this 15-page document together and threw everything they could at the wall to see what would stick. The reality is, it's all a very, very circumstantial. There is no direct evidence she did anything criminal and she looks forward to her day in court.”
At her bail review hearing Thursday, Valeria Smith was denied bail. Slightly earlier in the day, Keith Smith was denied bail at his hearing, as well. The presiding judge said he was an "extreme flight risk," and an "extreme danger to public safety."