A Whitfield County jury on Thursday evening returned a verdict finding 53-year-old Richard Marvin Smith of 172 Shirley Way, Dalton, guilty of rape and criminal attempt to commit kidnapping stemming from events occurring on March 30, 2019.
Smith was found not guilty of theft by taking and false imprisonment.
Judge Scott Minter who presided over the trial set sentencing for June 15, at 9 a.m. Smith was represented by attorney Alan Norton, of the Chattanooga law firm Luther Anderson. Assistant District Attorney Mark Higgins presented the case for the State of Georgia and was assisted by Detective Dewayne Holmes of the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office.
Concerning the jury’s verdict, Mr. Higgins said, “This was one of the most difficult cases I have handled in my 25 year career as a prosecutor. Sexual assault cases are among the most difficult cases to successfully prosecute and that difficulty was enhanced in this case by the unlawful activities and histories of those who testified in this case. I am extremely pleased that the jury was able to sort through all that was presented and render a verdict that acknowledged that justice cannot exist solely for those who always make the right decisions in life. The victim readily acknowledged making some really bad choices leading up to her assault, but in light of everything, this verdict acknowledges that justice has to be blind for all.”
Testimony in the trial began Monday and concluded on Wednesday. Due to illnesses and other emergencies with two of the jurors there was no evidence presented on Tuesday. Jury instructions and deliberations began Thursday morning and concluded with the verdict being announce in the early evening.
Evidence presented by the State of Georgia included testimony of the victim as well as three codefendants of Smith who were also charged with offenses stemming from the incident. The victim, a recovering methamphetamine addict, testified that she and Amy Jones (aka Amy Walden), an acquaintance of hers had been using methamphetamine together for days leading up to March 30, 2019 at which time they both went to Smith’s trailer at 172 Shirley Way where illegal drug use was also occurring. While at the trailer, Ms. Jones’s ex-boyfriend Marlon Bradford “Marty” Burk of Chatsworth was there and recognized her as an informant who worked with local law enforcement years earlier who he attributed as being responsible for sending him to prison. Based on this discovery and worried that the victim may still be working as an informant, the occupants in the residence including, Ms. Jones, Mr. Burk, Smith, Richard Forrest of Dalton and Forrest’s now ex-girlfriend Lindsey Lowe also of Dalton, held her against her will at the trailer on Shirley Way while they decided what to do with her. While she was held captive she was struck in the face, threatened with additional physical violence and death, stripped searched, deprived of her phone and vehicle, and kept from leaving the residence.
When Mr. Burk and Ms. Jones left the residence for a period of time, leaving Forrest and Smith with instructions to keep the victim detained, is when the victim testified Richard Forrest forced the victim to perform acts of sodomy and sexual intercourse with him. After this Forrest encouraged Smith to also sexually assault the victim which led to her being forced to perform intercourse with Smith while she was being held against her will. At some point later, the victim was able to run out the door and fled on foot ultimately ending up at McDonald’s off of East Walnut and reporting the incident to law enforcement later that day.
Ms. Jones, who prior to the trial pled guilty to the offense of false imprisonment, testified for the State and corroborated the victim’s account of the events and her part of the unlawful detention. Ms. Jones’ testimony indicated that while Smith never made specific threats to Ms. Jones, he was present during all of the threats and events preceding the rape and had also made sexual comments toward the victim during that time. Ms. Jones further testified that after the victim escaped, she drove the victim’s car with Smith accompanying her to regain control of the victim. Smith told Ms. Jones, when they had located the victim and Ms. Jones unsuccessfully told the victim to get her in the car, “She is not going to get in the car with me”
Ms. Jones is scheduled to be sentenced on June 15, 2021 at 9 a.m. before Judge Minter. Marty Burk, who also pled guilty prior to the trial to the offense of false imprisonment, testified for the State and corroborated the victim’s account of the events and his part in the unlawful detention. Burk is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18 at 9 a.m. before Judge Minter.
Lindsey Lowe also testified in the trial corroborating many details of the victim’s account of the events including Smith asking her to take the victim who was in the bathroom a rag after the sexual assault had occurred. Burk and Lowe both testified Smith admitted in their presence to having sexual intercourse with the victim.
Forrest was not called by either the State or defense as a witness and is currently serving a 30 year sentence, including 12 years without the possibility of parole for the offense of aggravated sodomy of the victim in this case. He pled guilty and was sentenced on Sept. 20, 2019.
Forrest, Smith and Lowe were not well known by the victim and a significant break in solving the case occurred around 1 a.m. on April 3, 2019 when the victim was given information that her vehicle that Ms. Jones had taken the night of the assault was located at the Walmart parking on East Walnut. When Whitfield County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at Walmart to meet with the victim, she saw Forrest and Lowe in the parking lot of McDonald’s and point them out as being involved in the assault a couple days prior.
The encounter at McDonald’s led to a key piece of evidence presented in the trial against Smith, which was a statement recorded on the body camera of a Whitfield County Sheriff’s Deputy that accompanied Detective Dewayne Holmes to Smith’s residence to talk with him about the incident. During that interview, Smith admitted knowledge that the victim was being held against her will and “tortured” While at first denying sexual intercourse then admitted intercourse with the victim and made several inconsistent statements included some suggesting it was consensual, others suggesting it was not consensual and still others suggesting he was forced to have intercourse with the victim. While being questioned by Detective Holmes, Smith repeatedly denied remembering making the statement “I don’t want to do this but I have to” to the victim before ultimately admitting that he made that statement.
Smith faces a sentence of 25 years to life on the rape charge with the possibility of life without parole plus an additional one-to-ten years on the attempted kidnapping charge.