Anatomy of Murder

A murder case has many layers: the victim, the crime, and the investigation. To truly understand it, you need to dissect each piece of a tragic puzzle. Join Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi and Scott Weinberger every Wednesday for an insider’s perspective, as they reveal to you the Anatomy of Murder.

In the Cemetery

In the Cemetery

Wed, 15 Sep 2021 07:00

Our first story that comes straight from a listener: A 15-year-old girl abducted and found brutally murdered in a cemetery. For episode information and photos, please visit

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If you're looking for a new show unlike anything you've ever heard before, check out audio Chuck's latest series killed. Each episode of killed covers a story that you may have never read because it was killed before it got published. I'm Justine Harman, who some of you may know from my show OC swingers, and I'm here to bring these dead stories back to life binge killed right now to get the full story. Hi everyone, Ashley Flowers here and I have exciting news to share. My debut novel, all good people here is officially out now. Our fans are blowing up our social talking about it. You do not want to be left out and the worst thing that could happen is for someone else to spoil it for you because there are some wild twists in this book. If you love true crime content, mysteries, and a grown up Nancy Drew style detective work then I have a good feeling you won't be able to put this book down. So what are you waiting for? Grab your copy of all good people here now, wherever books are sold. Jessica keep that name might have you heard that, that name or anything before? I don't know. The girl. It's gone too long. The family deserves justice. The victim, that 15 year old girl deserves justice. It's gone on too long. You've been carrying this around for you for 17 years. 17 years. You said it happened 15 years ago and 17 years ago I was locked up. I'm Scott Weinberger's, investigative journalist and former deputy sheriff. Classie former New York City homicide prosecutor and host of Investigation Discovery's true conviction, and this is anatomy of murder. Today's story is a little different than other cases we've profiled because it actually comes from one of you. One of our listeners, Carrie, reached out to us via social media to say that her father, Stephen Proni, was a successful county prosecutor out of Madison County, Ohio. He has a number of cases that are worth talking about, but it's also that his story is worth sharing with all of you, too. To me, I had the best job, but I was the main felony prosecutor for the county and was at home when the Lieutenant from the Sheriff's Office called me to say there was a dead body in the cemetery. In March of 1991, Madison County faced the unusual discovery of a murdered body, which was uncommon for this bedroom community. We're small back then with rural county. We probably even today have a murder maybe once every four or five years. Not many super bad things happen out here, and on top of that, a cemetery is one of the most unlikeliest places for a crime. What had happened was a young college student. Had seen the dead body in the back corner of the cemetery. And the cemetery we're talking about was actually a pioneer cemetery, which is basically just that. It's a burial ground for pioneers. And that day, a college student was there to take photographs and do various etchings and rubbings on the tombstones. You could see where someone had literally picked up a pioneer tombstone and smashed her head with it two or three times, broke the tombstone, half was thrown over the fence and half was laying there beside her. Buddy? Original mortis and set in and the corner on site it said she was probably dead 10 or 12 hours when we got there. It appeared she'd been also a victim of sexual assault. She was basically naked. She had a bra wrapped around her neck. She had underwear on. She had one sock on. You know, there's a lot of things to unpack here. Let's talk more about the weapon that was used, a very heavy tombstone, which was approximately 4 feet long and 70 to 100 pounds of concrete. It was pulled right out of the ground. I mean, imagine that the ground was still partially frozen. When they found her, she was laying face up. Her head was actually sunken into the ground a bit. That same ground that was partially frozen and we don't need to get too graphic here, but just you can imagine the type of injuries that that £70 tombstone left to her face. You know, it gives you some kind of indication of the killer's ability against a young girl breaking the tombstone during the attack. You know, initially, investigators on scene found that she probably was struck multiple times, which means that the assailant would have to have lifted that tombstone above his or her head multiple times to make those strikes. And the way that she was left barely clothed with just a few items of her clothing remaining, really talks to what she endured before her death. Who was this young female who appeared to be in her teens, and why was she here, you know, without any ID found at the scene, investigators were going down some of the usual avenues, a quick check of missing persons reports, along with looking at the entire crime scene to determine was this a crime of opportunity or did she use. This route as a shortcut and the killer may have been lying in wait. You could see the marks on the fence muddy where somebody had climbed over the fence in the front, then the duct tape with her hair on it, then a little farther on as a sock that matches the socks she was wearing. So when you look at these items, they really almost pointed to a pathway, then the tombstone that was Askew section behind the tombstone. You could see somebody had knelt and then another 20 yards is where she's laying dead. So if you continue to look further down that line, you had to wonder, where was she trying to run to? It was all running toward this mercury light that was two or 300 yards behind the cemetery. That was an old farmhouse, so you could see where she was making her way back towards that, looking for help. The leading theory. Is that in the dark of night? At the time of the attack, her frantic attempt was to get away, to get to safety. She ran into a fence post, perhaps disabling her for just a moment, giving the killer an opportunity to strike. How horrifying it must have been, because, you know, it's not basically out in the country. There's no lights on whatsoever. I mean this pitch black. So for her to be running through the cemetery for her life had to be horrifying. And that's what struck me more than anything. And then to die by having your head smashed by a tombstone. Unbelievable. The brutality of the crime was 10 plus. We need to take a pause right here because it is so horrific when I think about this dead of night, because it really was beyond that light, pitch black, the terror, and that she literally runs into a fence which may have been her only means of escape. And that is enough that we should all take that moment of pause. It was pretty evident what had happened just by looking at the progression of where she ended up and where it appeared she had come from. Within hours, police would sharpen that theory and have an important find on a busy on ramp to a highway, police located a pair of jeans they believed was connected to their victim, leading police to now suspect that she may have originally been abducted by her attacker. And out of a car or some kind of vehicle on the road and had taken off and found an opportunity to escape into the cemetery after being potentially sexually assaulted, only to be chased after and recaptured, then murdered by her attacker. This question is who was the young woman who laid their death? Part of the identification process for investigators was to take a couple of photographs of the team that they had found in the cemetery because she was so badly beaten and I know it's so horrible to even say it like that, but she was so badly beaten that they weren't sure if anyone was able to recognize her. So they took a couple of photographs and then that would aid them once they got a lead on who it may be, to definitely identify who she was. They started calling around to the different police agencies within the county. Nobody had any missing persons. Then they started calling Franklin County and Columbus. They had a 15 year old girl that was missing from a halfway house. They sent a picture to the mother and at first they didn't think so. And while that might sound odd, it unfortunately isn't that uncommon when someone based on decomposition or because of their injuries. That it's just not so easy to see that person as your own even flesh and blood. Then they went to the coroner's office in Columbus and identified her as Jessica King. Jessica was only 15 years old, from Columbus, OH, which is neighboring Madison County. She lived with her mom, and at the time, her dad was out of the picture. Model students. Very intelligent. Great grades, straight A's, well liked in school. Had everything going for her. This was a someone that if she was your daughter, you you'd be proud that she was your daughter. You know Anna Seeger, you know that crimes of opportunity have no rhyme or reason, just opportunity. It's hard to really determine how someone really becomes a victim in these cases. It can be anything. I mean, very often something that you see is sometimes the only common thread is just what you said, Scott. Opportunity. Are they alone somewhere? Are they in an area that is not as populated? Is there something about that person's makeup that kind of keeps them at a distance from others? And that at least seems the one thing that they could say here, because the last time Jessica was seen was that Friday night. Remember she's found Sunday, that she'd been seen Friday night on a way to the bus stop. So investigators. And they looked at the injuries and based on what the ultimate autopsy could tell them was that she was probably killed sometime that Saturday night and found Sunday. But really the question is, who would want to harm her? And it really came down to there was nothing obvious that investigators could figure out. Steve Peroni mentioned earlier that she was missing from a halfway house. And you may be asking why an A student, someone who had never been in trouble before, be at a halfway house? And we were asking the same question. At some point she hooks up. With a boyfriend, that is not the greatest choice you could make for a boyfriend. Her mom was concerned and that caused a lot of friction between her and her mom. So she had gotten counseling and gone to a halfway house to let things simmer down. So that is literally what was going on that the counselor suggested this family actually needed to decompress, and her mom felt that she really needed to do something drastic to try to actually get her daughter back to the Kane family. The news of her. There was a devastating blow, and how would any parent grapple with that kind of pain? But for her mother, Rebecca, knowing that they had been fighting, which led her to be at the halfway House, would only add an unthinkable grief. She had left the halfway house on Friday evening to go to a party. But then other information came in to determine that she was going to meet her boyfriend, Adam Mall. She had told one of the girls at the Halfway house that she had gotten into a fight with the boyfriend, and she was going to go meet him at one of the malls on the West side of Columbus and then try to straighten things out. He was going to a bus stop to take a bus to get to that meeting with the boyfriend, and then that night she doesn't appear back at the halfway house, doesn't make it to the party. The of course the boyfriend was number one on the list and his 4-5 buddies and obviously anybody else that Jessica could have been with, including the Friends of the boyfriend. Police would want to talk to them as well and get their statements. Because remember how the investigators work is they get one statement from the boyfriend and they want to confirm. His statements with others and see if they all jive together and that is an important part of an investigation to determine any information they can about the events of the night that Jessica disappeared. And then talking to the boyfriend, he told the police that she had never shown up. He, you know, he professed that he cared for her and they were both upset that mom was trying to split them apart. He wouldn't do anything like this to her because he cared for her so much. At this point it's really a lot of speculation by investigators, but that is why they have to go down those paths to see if there's something to it. Or at least they can cross them off the list as friends who were backing up his statements that they were in love and there's no way that he would kill her. While that sounded very plausible on its face. But the boyfriend and his buddies the very next day did something that turned everything they said potentially on his head. Police wanted to talk with Jessica's current boyfriend. They did have an initial conversation with him a day after Jessica's body was found, but when they went to ask him some follow up questions, there was an issue. What made him extremely interesting is that they talked to him Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday. He and four or five buddies take off heading towards Florida. You know, Scott, I'm always the one who says, well, you know, you can never prejudge based on the way something looks. But I don't know. You're spoken to about your girlfriend who you just fought with, and now you take off a day or two later. Tell me where your head goes hearing that. Well, you know my BRF, right, my big red flag where somebody does something which is not unusual, but it is usual for someone who may be part of a criminal activity to do. And, you know, in their initial interviews with the investigators, her friends told them that she and her boyfriend, Sean Thompson, were very much in love. So when investigators learned he had left town, let's just say that is, to me, highly suspicious. Anna Seger, investigators really think that they have got. With their person that they're at least on to the right track and they think that he's lying to them when he said that he would never harm her and hadn't seen her, even though they last heard that she was going to apparently meet him when she disappeared. But what the boyfriend didn't know is that investigators had something that was going to very quickly help aid them in trying to figure out where the truth lay. The medical examiner during their investigation did recover important serological evidence in the exam of Jessica and it confirmed two important factors. One, it confirmed that it was in fact a sexual assault, and two, DNA could potentially play a role in ID being a suspect or eliminating potential suspects. You have to remember back in 1991, nineteen 92, the DNA was not as precise as it is now so. CI, which is our crime lab here in Ohio, didn't even have a unit back then. We had to send this stuff out, so it takes a couple weeks to get stuff back. Things were slow. So of course the first thing they're going to do is go back to the boyfriend. Good information came in that they were in the state of Georgia on the way to Florida, and that is where investigators caught up with Sean Thompson and his friends. It wasn't like he was in the next town or county. He was all the way in another state. So investigators went down, said they wanted to speak to him, they brought him back, and now they actually got his DNA, which they could compare to the items found on Jessica's body. Was tested, tested negative. It seemed like everyone was pretty surprised when that came back to not be a match. One of the Buddies was tested E tested negative. While that doesn't aid their case, and it doesn't make it him, it doesn't necessarily rule him out either. Because remember, they were also looking at his friends. Was this a group attack, or was this something that maybe he still had something to do with? Investigators didn't know, but it certainly wasn't going to be the quick answers that they were originally hoping for. DNA testing was in its infancy when the DNA was collected back then in 1991, it's literally taken very often on basically like a Q-tip swab, and it's put in almost a test tube. And a large portion of the sample would be used up every time testing was done. Going forward decades, whenever we knew that we were going to consume the rest of the DNA sample, we had to notify the defense. And with good reasons that they had the opportunity to either have that tested or be present for the testing. Because after it's all gone, well, that's it. It's done. So, to preserve as much evidence as they could, they only tested people that they really, really thought were possible suspects. And it certainly makes it more difficult for the defense to question the evidence, or for the prosecution to validate that comparison if it's ultimately a match, if you have nothing left for it to be checked from again. There were two or three buddies that were around but had, from all the evidence that they had secured, didn't indicate they had anything to do with this in any way, shape or form. You know, we've been involved in cases where even though a DNA sample was collected in a homicide case, in fact even a sexual assault case, detectives have to make a difficult decision holding off testing a finite sample, knowing the testing could completely use that sample up. And the decision was based on the fact that each year DNA was getting more precise. So waiting could give better and more accurate results. But just think about that. You have some serological evidence that you believe may be connected. To somebody you believe may be involved in a homicide or a rape and you hold off and you talk to the family and tell them you're holding off because you believe that a better, more accurate answer may be years ahead. But while time is ticking by, that also means that obviously Jessica's family doesn't have answers, but it also means the community has no answers. There's a lot of attention to this case when it happened because, you know, she was in a halfway house and had been essentially abducted not far from the halfway house where everybody was frightened. Because here's a young 15 year old girl, 16 year old girl that's now been murdered. You know, who could do such a thing? You know, at the top of the podcast we spoke about the type of community. Madison County was small, rural and safe. So when a brutal homicide of a 15 year old teen hits the paper, the community was absolutely in fear. There was a lot of concern, a lot of fright. Somebody's out there that's abducting young girls. Keep your kids close and and safe. As the investigation plotted on and they tried to get answers with DNA, but there was nothing. It was taking them nowhere. They tried to interview witnesses. No leads were coming from those interviews. The Lieutenant who was in charge of investigations? His name was Jim Sabin. That case never left his desk. There was always 2 feet away from where he was sitting, and he would review that thing constantly. The case really starts to get stagnant and go cold. We would have periodic discussions with Mom and sister, see if they had heard anything new or had any new insights. A lot relied on science at this point, you know, on that DNA, which was submitted and periodically resubmitted over the years to a growing national database of known offenders. And that's really what's happening in the times. You know, the techniques, while advanced for most of us were really pretty rudimentary back then, but that also included what they could do with the information. They started off as really just local information, but then they grew to these national DNA databases. You know, you've heard as many times talk about CODIS, and over time as these things went into the DNA databases you were able to get faster information. But remember, we are talking about the 90s when these things just didn't exist, at least not yet. It was probably about a year or two into my tenure as the prosecutor when the decision was made to send it out to BCCI for them to take a look to see if they could come up with any new insights into the case. Investigator Greg Cost, is this assigned to it? We hear Steven talk about BCCI and actually it's the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. And, you know, often people ask us how important it is to have a fresh pair of eyes look at a case because, you know, when you hear the word cold case. It's usually a brand new squad who's taking an old folder and going through all of these old reports and old interviews to determine if anything could speak to them. And you know it has become the standard in cold cases to get a fresh pair of eyes to look over one of the cases. It doesn't necessarily mean the original investigators did anything wrong or missed something, but often a different approach to a case can pay dividends. Every year on the anniversary there would be a newspaper article about what had happened and the sheriff asking for any information that anybody had, etcetera, etcetera, to keep the anxiety at a fairly high level so that there was a kidnapper ****** somewhere in the county. But after the course of 1012 years, that anxiety fades. In years past and all the while the case is still bothering Steve Proni and not only Steve Proni, but the now sheriff of the town and all the investigators that had been involved. But with no new leads. All they can do is wait and hope for that DNA to eventually result in a hit. So just imagine 17 years multiple tests on that single semen sample. It got to the point where there really, really wasn't much left to test. Then in 2008, Steve finally gets the call he was waiting for. It was actually 17 years to the exact day when she was found dead. When we got the call from BCCI that they had a match. Everybody that was involved in this case was like, Holy Cow, we can't believe it. The sheriff who comes up to the office, who is the investigator. Then he goes, we got a match. I just like you got to be kidding me. And he goes, no, we're going on to BCCI to meet with the analyst and discuss the situation. I was in shock. He was in shock. So just picture what it must have been like when that call came in. Let me just make this clear. This is a huge discovery. We're talking about the littlest of samples. Available to test. In fact, there was nothing, according to the forensic scientist at the bottom of the test tube. After it's been in there and jostled around, some of the material gets on the side of the test tube. He had to swipe the sides of the test tube to get the most minute sample that could not have registered in 1991. Now it's 2008 and science is in his favor. And was lucky that there was enough material that he could run a DNA analysis on that material. Now the next step was to register that sample and spit out that profile. And that was Marvin Lee Smith. The general comment was who the hell is he? As soon as a profile of Marvin Lee Smith was pulled up, investigators quickly realized that he was someone who was never on their radar. And now investigators had that name. They needed to confirm several things before they can even think about pulling them in. Does he have any ties to Madison or Franklin County? If so, was he even in the vicinity when this crime was committed? And is he alive now? And if he is, where is he? He was down in North Carolina. He had been convicted. Rape out of Franklin County. Previously, he was out on bond, but pled guilty shortly thereafter. Went to prison, in fact, was in a prison here in Madison County. During the course of this investigation, he was released from prison and went down to North Carolina. He violated probation and came back up and served some time. And at that point, that's when they took his DNA sample and when he did. It matched up perfectly with the match. Was one in like 10 or 15 zeros. I mean it was nobody else but him. Investigators quickly learned that when they found Marvin Lee Smith, he was already in jail. So many of you may be asking, why wasn't his DNA taken then, or any of his previous arrests? And I think anesia, that's worth explaining. Down to the function of time, back in 1991, they weren't taking DNA samples the way that they do often routinely take them today. And it was only as the years went by that they began to take them from certain categories. For example, if someone was convicted of certain crimes, certain felonies, and they went to prison for those crimes, that then their DNA sample was taken as part of that conviction. And that's exactly what happened here. It was just lucky that Smith had violated probation and came back. Where he had to give a sample of his blood to be put into the system. And clearly, with his string of similar offenses prior to the murder of Jessica, had they known of him, he would have been a prime target. Remember, his previous crimes included coaxing young girls into his car from bus stops and sexually assaulting them. This was a guy who they didn't know his name. They had no reason to put him together. With Jessica, they had no link at all. But for that, DNA, while DNA is clearly a game changer. Random crimes have been cleared by arrests for more than a century, so right there, this is a prime example of how huge DNA came to crime investigative work. With these piece of information, including his criminal history, Smith was the full focus of this reinvigorated investigation. But detectives would have to play it smart once they got an opportunity to talk to him. Once we start looking into his background and seeing that he was there, he was out on rape charge at the time of this incident and then his past history with guys, a perfect match for what happens. So then the sheriff and the BCCI investigator Greg Costas form a battle plan to go down and talk to him. They wanted to speak to him, but they wanted to really have all their cards lined up because they were partially worried about what he'd say. There was concern that he would say, yeah, we had consensual sex or whatever, so they wanted to get him making some kind of statements concerning that he didn't know her. So, you know, people often say, like, you know, even homicide younger assistants will say, well, I don't want to use that. If he says he doesn't know or they didn't admit to anything. But here again, they had the DNA that can place him intimately with her. And so saying any of that would help them because if he said he didn't know her, well, they've already caught him in a lie. And catching him in that lie, the obvious next question will be why? After 17 years, 17 years, this whole case would rely on this interview. They're out of DNA to test, and with no other evidence tying him to the case, what he would say in that interview room would make or break them. They go down North Carolina, they identify themselves. They take them to the local Sheriff's Department down in North Carolina. And as the sheriff entered the room, he knew everything was on the line. The sheriff talks to him for a while, and then Greg caused this talks to him for a while. Everything, of course, is recorded on film and tape recorded at this point, I know you have a lot of questions. For us. Yeah, for me. You know, I'm willing to ask any questions. Yeah, like they there. I, you know, you say this happened 17 years ago and 17 years ago I was locked up. Years had anticipated that morbid Lee Smith would likely claim that he didn't know Jessica, never met her, never saw her. And that's exactly what he told investigators, Jessica King, that they might have you heard that, that name or anything before. I don't know the girl. Did you recognize her when the sheriff said you were picture? Never saw her before? No, because he asked me this and then he showed me the picture. They didn't like the kind girl. The incident that occurred with this girl, OK. That occurred prior to you going in. The institution, so you weren't in the institution at the time? They get him to basically admit that he doesn't know who Jessica Keene is. He never touched her. There was. DNA found was obviously was not hers. Recently we had the state lab. Retest everything. When they did that? Identify your DNA. My dear yeah. From several different items that were left at the crime scene. I got it. I don't know me, but you'll feel there. I can't explain it. I don't know. He's got no explanation of how his DNA was on her. He knows nothing but what's going on. You tell us your side. It may not be as bad as everybody thinks it is. We don't know. All I know. Never. But my DNA said. OK. And we know what happened, we just don't know why or how. I don't know why it happens. And to investigators, it's often referred to as a negative confession, a statement he would have a hard time walking back from, given the weight and the fact that the DNA connected Smith to the murder of Jessica. Investigators made it clear to Smith that the likelihood that the match was accurate, they told him that the odds that it could be someone other than him was a number with a one and 18 zeros after it. That is one and one quintrillion. This is your opportunity to tell us what happened, because I'll tell you what's going to happen to you. You're gonna go back to Ohio. And you're going to go to Madison County and you know what's going to happen, Marvin. You're going to be indicted for aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. And you know what? They're not going to have mercy on you and Madison kind. You sit there and say, Gee, I don't know, I can't. I can't explain how my DNA gone, that crime scene I realized this morning quintrillion chances that it's somebody else. Alright, look at me. This is your chance to tell us what happened, to tell us your side. They can't get him to crack. You know what? More than this is probably the hardest. I'm guessing the second part of day of your life. Well, the hardest day of your life was Marvin realizing that you murdered somebody. You know, the second hardest day of your life is more than being confronted about that murder. You know, the negative confession is unique tool within an interview with the suspect. It's putting them in a corner that you believe that you have enough credible information. And when they allegedly lie about that, it's hard from the back up from that. So ultimately you think that that's exactly where investigators want him. But that is not usually enough to just walk into a court and tell a jury and get a conviction. I mean, you still need a lot more than just a negative confession and even more than just DNA. Then explain to me how we would get your DNA from this crime scene if you've never met her, you've never seen her, you never had sex with her, all those things you said, how does your DNA end up with that crime scene? Explain that for me. Then you give me a plausible explanation as to how your DNA ends up at that crime scene. If all those things are true that you told me that, that's what I don't know how. But because I don't know. All I could say I wasn't there, but my DNA, I was there. That's all I can say. Marvin Lee Smith. He's got no explanation of how his DNA was on her. They subsequently arrested him and he's extradited back to Ohio. So I have to put myself in Stephen Pronea's shoes just for a moment, because here he was. He had actually lived with this case for 17 years. And when I say that he was actually out at that crime scene when they were doing the initial investigation after Jessica's body had been found. So he had been living with this case for all those years. And as a prosecutor, when you have these cases that sit there cold or unanswered and you have the files there, it is such a feeling. Of almost exhilaration when you think that you have the answer now. Again, that's not the end of the story because you still need the jury to come back with that verdict or for a person to plead guilty. But just to get that answer is a big deal. The main prosecutor, because of the fact that I know this thing backwards and forwards, I'm still pretty much involved in all aspects of the case, so I'm ready to go on this one. We do know that Smith has a record for similar types of crimes, and normally that can't be entered into evidence for jury to decide. But there are exceptions. Is that correct, Anna Sigga sure, and it's called mollino evidence. There are certain circumstances, such as identity, modus operandi. Is there something so specific about the way the perpetrator commits their crimes that it can help prove their identity? But you have to apply to the judge to see if the judge agrees with us before they can let that in. You charged with Agg murder, which was either 30 to life or no possibility of parole. He was represented by state public defenders. It was a 3 judge panel hearing that there's a 3 judge panel that hears these cases there in Madison County, Ohio. It is why I love hearing about these cases from all over the United States, because it really is done differently in New York. You're just going to have one judge unless you're at an appellate level when there's more than one. So even hearing that to me. When I interviewed him, I kept asking him questions about that was just so interesting to me because it is yet another way to hopefully achieve the same result, which is that it is justice whichever way it lands. About to have the trial, and the public defenders had reviewed all the evidence. Of course, they saw the DNA evidence and his statements, and they had talked to him. He decided to plead guilty. This is going to be it. There aren't going to be the years and years and years of appeals processes that often happen in these guilty verdicts after a homicide trial. So some families say they're glad it's done, they don't have to sit through it, and others say that they feel that they were somehow robbed of that too. But again, this is the way that it landed, and it seemed in this case quite understandable and perhaps best for all. With this guilty plea, Smith was not required outside of just pleading guilty to say anything about the murder of Jessica Keen, didn't have to give any details or didn't have to give any reason. He never made the statement one way or the other. Besides, I plead guilty. Never explained what happened. Even to this day, he's never explained what happened or what he did. The sentence to life in prison without parole possibilities. And I know we often talk about what the motive could have been, and I think I mentioned this earlier in the podcast that you know. Random crimes are based a lot on opportunity and clearly a lack of motive. Here may be no information from the defendant, but opportunity played into a part of that. And by the time they looked at the various pieces of evidence, investigators and prosecutors really did have, unfortunately, a pretty good idea of exactly what happened to Jessica that night and throughout the next day. She has taken he immobilizes her, rapes her. Several times she is in the car. He doesn't exactly know what to do with her. He cruises out to our county and we still don't know what reason he came out here, if it was to kill her or to have sex out in a secluded spot. But she escapes. He chases after her and kills her with the tombstone. Investigators believe that after Jessica was abducted from that bus stop, she was held captive for at least six hours. Sexually assaulted between two and four hours after her escape from the car, Jessica's body was found 42 hours later, 20 miles from that bus stop. The terror, indescribable and with all the ingredients that go into solving murder investigations, a little bit of luck always finds its way in in this case, had Smith not violated his probation. And forced to give his blood as part of his arrest for that violation, his DNA would not have been in the system and likely gotten away with murder. Let's take a real sidestep for a moment and just talk a little bit about the prosecutor, Stephen Proni. Stephen Proni was a lifelong public servant, that he served as the elected prosecutor from 96 to 2020. And when I read articles about him, they really spoke so much about the type of prosecutor he was. They talk about his legacy being as a mentor, a skilled mediator. And someone who treated everyone with dignity and that it's his integrity that was really the key to his leadership. And that is something that is worthy of pointing out because that is exactly the type of people that we all want holding these important positions. And when he retired after more than two decades of service, he was the longest running prosecuting attorney in that county in more than 200 years. In the end. We saw justice done for that family. You know, they had suffered for so long. I was still in constant contact with the family and it was fulfilling to see that they finally saw justice done in this case. And that's the basis of our job and that's what makes it a great, great job. That's why I love this job. And when I think about Jessica Keenan and what happened to her, you know, while I'm recording this podcast, I'm literally looking out my window and there is Thunder and I see the rain. And somehow that represents the terror that this young woman met in the end. But yet it also comes down to how we ended up telling her story. And that is a much more positive note to me because I think for Scott and I both. Am really comes down to honoring the victims and their survivors and those that work on their behalf and that's how this story really came to all of you and all of you were really kind of becoming this AOM family that have those like minded goals and by Stephen Pronea's daughter reaching out and wanting to share her dad with us. Well that is really testament to all of you who have showed us that you care about the Jessica. Teens and all the other victims of homicide out there about the men and women that work on their behalf and you've also just shown us over and over by that reaching out that you care. So thank you to all of you. TuneIn next Wednesday, when we'll dissect another new case on anatomy of murder. Anatomy of Murder is an audio Chuck original, A Weinberger media and forseti media production summit. David is executive producer.