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Councilwoman’s brother indicted in murder scheme

Police: 2008 plot to kill her involved releasing venomous snakes in her home

By Sally Voth — svoth@nvdaily.com

BERRYVILLE — The brother of slain Councilwoman Gail Smith has again been indicted for soliciting her murder.

Meanwhile, a search warrant in relation to the case was issued for a “person of interest’s” email account, according to court records.

Timothy R. Smith Jr., of Burkeville, was already being held at the Lunenburg Correctional Center when he was served with the indictment June 28, according to a news release from Berryville Police Chief W. Neal White.

Timothy Smith was indicted Jan. 18 in Prince Edward County, according to online court records.

July 30 marks the second anniversary of the discovery of Gail Smith’s body in her 301 Pickett Court home. She had been shot in the head.

Her brother is serving two years of a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty last August in Nottoway County Circuit Court to solicitation to commit murder. Timothy Smith entered an Alford plea in which he didn’t admit guilt, but acknowledged there was enough evidence to be convicted, White said last year.

A second solicitation count and a conspiracy charge were dropped. That plot, which dated to 2008, involved unleashing venomous snakes in Gail Smith’s house, White said Thursday.

The councilwoman had worried her brother might try to harm her, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Clarke County Circuit Court last month.

“Prior to her death, Gail Smith told friends and neighbors that she feared her brother, Timothy R. Smith Jr., and that if anything happened to her to tell the police to ‘look at her brother,'” it says.

According to court documents filed in the Nottoway County Circuit Court case, authorities have long suspected Timothy Smith in multiple plots to have his sister killed. Several people have told investigators Smith asked for their assistance in killing the councilwoman, suggesting to some they should steal her jewelry to make it look like a
robbery.

White said the latest indictment is for a crime that occurred in May 2009. The chief declined to say if it led to Gail Smith’s murder.

“It was just one [plot] that was uncovered in investigating her homicide,” he said.
Solicitation and conspiracy charges have to be filed in the jurisdictions where they occurred, White said. He pointed out that Nottoway and Prince Edward counties border one another.

Berryville police investigator G.J. Frenzel filed an affidavit for a search warrant June 28 in Clarke County Circuit Court. The warrant is for access to Stephen E. McLaughlin’s Google email account.

The affidavit says that Timothy Smith’s indictment was in relation to his trying to hire McLaughlin, 40, to kill his sister. At the time of the slaying, McLaughlin lived in Farmville, but “is currently not making himself, or his exact whereabouts available to law enforcement,” it says.

McLaughlin is a “person of interest” in the murder investigation, the affidavit says. He has not been charged.

At the time of her death, Smith and her siblings were involved in a civil case in Clarke County Circuit Court regarding the estate of their father, who died in 2010, leaving a $316,796 estate, according to court records.

Timothy and Deborah L. Smith, of Burkeville, had objected to Gail Smith’s efforts to gain control of their father’s finances. Deborah Smith was sentenced in Nottoway Circuit Court in April to serve six months for obstruction of justice without force, reduced from a count of conspiracy to commit murder.

Two solicitation counts were dropped. Last year, Deborah Smith was sentenced in Prince Edward County to about three weeks in jail for obtaining her sister’s vehicle under false pretenses six months after the slaying.

Two men from Meherrin received suspended sentences for misdemeanor accessory after the fact to a felony as part of the 2008 plot.