Delmer Smith (see The Guilty Project, here), who managed to get away with at least dozen extremely violent crimes before being identified because the F.B.I. didn’t bother to load his DNA into the federal database, is now being charged in the murder of Kathleen Briles. Dr. James Briles found his wife’s body in their home.
Kathy Briles, mother of three, would be alive today if the government and our criminal courts bothered to prioritize the lives of victims with half the vigilance they direct towards the rights of offenders. Pro-offender activists, who hammer away at every effort to monitor violent offenders who have been returned to the streets, are culpable too.
But nobody prioritizes victims, except the police. Victims remain expendable.
Here is Dr. Briles:
MANATEE — Dr. James Briles finally got the chance to focus his rage on someone Thursday, more than six months after finding his wife bound, gagged and beaten to death in a pool of blood in the living room of their Terra Ceia home.
Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube announced that Delmer Smith III — already charged with beating and raping several women in their Sarasota homes — has been served with a warrant charging him with murder in the death of Kathleen Briles on Aug. 3.
Detectives say Smith, 38, bludgeoned the 49-year-old woman to death with an iron antique sewing machine, before stealing several items from the house.
After Steube told a room full of media of Smith’s arrest, Dr. Briles spoke on behalf of his sons, Calvin and Curtis, and daughter Kristen Venema, saying Smith deserves “no quarter.”
“Let me say a little bit about Delmer Smith,” said Briles, who found his wife’s body after returning home from work. “He is a coward, a sociopath and a punk. His sole purpose is to inflict suffering.”
Briles said Smith is not only in jail to protect the public from him, but to “protect him from us.” He spoke of his anger, and the horrifying discovery of his wife.
“Am I angry? Oh yeah,” he said. “You’d understand that if you saw what I saw when I came home.”
Good for him. He’s got every right to be angry:
Investigators also believe Briles’ death might have been avoided, if not for a backlog in the entry of DNA samples into an FBI database.
The FBI had Smith’s DNA, taken while he was in federal prison on a bank robbery conviction. But since it had not been entered into the database, there was no match when Sarasota detectives last spring submitted evidence from four earlier home invasion attacks.
There wasn’t a match until after Smith was arrested for a bar fight in Venice, and after detectives asked the FBI to enter his DNA into the database.
And after Kathleen Briles was dead.
Part of the story here is police performance. The cops came through when federal parole agents did not. Venice Captain Tom McNulty (who also helped put my rapist away for good, after various judges and parole officials cut him serial breaks for two decades), was among investigators in two counties who made the cognitive leap to tie Smith to the home invasion crimes and hold him pending DNA analysis — after Smith was arrested in an unrelated bar fight.
Had that fight happened in any one of a thousand other jurisdictions, there is a good chance Smith would have walked away from jail and been free to keep committing crimes.
Delmer Smith is only one of several serial killers and rapists who have literally gotten away with murder thanks to lax sentencing, nonexistent parole, and failure to enforce DNA database laws — a systematic neglect of legal reforms that cost countless women their lives. There’s John Floyd Thomas, suspected of killing some 30 women in Los Angeles — his first rape conviction was in 1957. There’s Walter E. Ellis, who killed at least nine women, and managed to avoid detection because Wisconsin officials failed to bother to hold him responsible for submitting another inmate’s DNA as his own before releasing him from prison.
How many more Delmer Smiths are out there? One is too many.