Delmer Smith goes on trial for murder of Manatee doctor's wife Kathleen Briles

8:19 PM, Aug 6, 2012   |    comments
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BRADENTON, Florida - Three years ago, a Manatee County doctor found his wife's bludgeoned body in their Terra Ceia home. Today, the man investigators say murdered 48-year-old Kathleen Briles is on trial for her death.

Delmer Smith, 41, is already serving life for another home invasion. He is also a suspect in another unsolved murder, two rapes, and several home burglaries. But today, Dr. Briles sought justice for his wife.

"She was lying on her stomach like this, head to the right," said Dr. James Briles. He recalled for the jury the moment he found his wife's body on their living room floor the evening of August 3, 2009. Briles said duct tape covered her mouth and was used to tie her hands and wrists.

"She was not breathing. She was cold. Her face deformed, her jaw, her head deformed. I knew she was dead," said Dr. Briles.

The jury heard the doctor's 911 call. "Blood all over. She's tied up, hit over the head, not breathing. I think she's dead."

The weapon investigator said Smith allegedly used an antique, cast iron Singer sewing machine to beat Kathleen Briles' head. "There were minimum, a minimum, of eight blows to her head by this sewing machine. That 23 pound sewing machine delivered by 6'0", 260 pound Delmer Smith," said state prosecutor Brian Iten.

The jury saw Briles' last moments that day. Surveillance video captured her grocery shopping at a Publix in Palmetto. Once home, crime scene photos show her groceries still in the car and the Briles' home burglarized, drawers and closets ransacked.

Iten said in his opening statement to the jury, "All the items police recovered all tied to a single individual -- Delmer Smith."

Prosecutors said seven stolen items link Smith to the murder. There are his and hers Geneva watches, a coin set, a diamond necklace, and a medical encyclopedia.

But the defense said it's the evidence the state lacks that proves their client innocence. Defense attorney David Hernandez said to the jury, "There are no fingerprints, no DNA of Mr. Smith at the Briles' home. In fact, the evidence will show no DNA of the defendant in this case."

Several key witnesses for the state this week include Smith's girlfriend. Iten said Smith allegedly asked her to hide a red and white duffle bag taken from the Briles' home. Some of their stolen items were inside.

Another man serving time reportedly cut a deal with investigators for his testimony. Iten said that witness told deputies Smith asked him to sell Briles' diamond necklace. Deputies found the necklace at a pawn store.

Smith faces the death sentence if found guilty. The trial is expected to last all week.

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