A Baltimore man described a horrifying event in December: He and his wife, Jacquelyn, been driving his daughter home from a night celebrating the daughter’s birthday. A woman approached their car, asking for money to feed her baby, and Jacquelyn rolled down the window to give her a few dollars. Then a man approached to thank her for the donation – but then began stabbing her through the window, before running off with her purse and necklace.
But police now say the whole story was a ruse, and that Jacquelyn Smith, 54, was actually killed by her husband and his daughter.
Keith Smith, 52, and Valeria Smith, 28, were arrested by police in Texas on Sunday morning and charged with first-degree murder.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a press conference Sunday that city officials felt pain for Jacquelyn’s family – and also for the citizens of Baltimore. “These individuals took advantage of a situation, a city that is already dealing with its own problems. So we are looking forward to this cruel act being brought to justice.”
The Baltimore Sun reported in December that Keith Smith said he wanted to get a law passed banning panhandling, in memory of his wife. The newspaper noted that Baltimore already has a ban on soliciting money from motorists.
The city has had 47 reported homicides so far in in 2019 so far, according to Sun, and 309 last year.
The killing of Jacquelyn Smith grabbed headlines with its shocking nature. Oprah Winfrey, who for several years was a news anchor in Baltimore, tweeted in December that the incident would make her wary of donating to panhandlers: “This story struck my heart. I’ve done this a 1k times. But will think twice before ever doing again.”
Panhandlers told the Sun that after the killing, they saw a big drop in donations and saw more motorists locking their doors when they approached.
On Sunday, Interim Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said that the suspects “took advantage of Baltimore.”
The evidence “points to the fact that it was not a panhandler and that the circumstances were very different,” Harrison said. “What we want to make sure is that the truth comes out and justice is done.”
Kevin Lindamood, President and CEO of Healthcare for the Homeless, an organization that provides medical and support services to homeless people in Baltimore, said it was “reprehensible to play into stereotype” and fuel fear by trying to pin the murder on homeless people.
“I remember vividly the public hysteria over public begging that followed this story last year,” Lindamood wrote on Twitter. “If there was half as much public outrage over poverty itself we could end homelessness altogether.”
“In 2019, we should hardly be surprised when fear and stereotype are used to cover up a crime,” he added. “May it give us collective foresight to avoid reactivity and a rush to blame ‘the other.'”