Wal­mart mur­der sus­pect pleads guilty, re­ceives 2 life sen­tences

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - MARIYA LEWTER mlewter@cov­news.com

Bran­don Shawn Smith en­tered a guilty plea in front of Judge W. Ken­dall Wynne, Jr. on Wed­nes­day in the New­ton County Ju­di­cial Court.

Smith, along with Stephanie Maria Ro­driguez, was charged with mal­ice and felony mur­der, armed rob­bery, kid­nap­ping and ag­gra­vated as­sault in con­nec­tion with the mur­der of Mar­sha John­son of Cov­ing­ton on Nov. 16, 2015.

As a re­sult of the ne­go­ti­ated plea, Smith was sen­tenced to two con­sec­u­tive life sen­tences plus 20 years. Af­ter the read­ing of sev­eral im­pact state­ments from fam­ily mem­bers of the vic­tim, Smith stated he hoped the John­son fam­ily could one day for­give him.

The court or­dered a men­tal eval­u­a­tion of Ro­driguez for com­pe­tency and crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity prior to go­ing to trial.

Smith and Ro­driguez were ar­rested in Manch­ester, Ten­nessee af­ter po­lice is­sued an all-points bul­letin and video of the cou­ple. While John­son, 65, was leav­ing the Wal­mart on In­dus­trial Blvd in Cov­ing­ton, Smith tried to grab her purse. John­son fought back and was then dragged away from her car and was struck and kicked.

Ac­cord­ing to Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Capt. Ken Mal­com, Smith then sup­pos­edly jumped into his car and backed over the vic­tim, who was sit­ting be­hind his ve­hi­cle, and then ran over her an ad­di­tional two times. The in­ci­dent was cap­tured on sur­veil­lance video.

Ro­driguez, who is orig­i­nally from New Mex­ico, and Smith, from Vir­ginia, are thought to be re­spon­si­ble for a sev­eral vi­o­lent purse snatch­ings in Vir­ginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Ge­or­gia.

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