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Kemba Smith's Hard Time

By the start of senior year, Kemba was on academic probation. At Peter's suggestion, she left Hampton and moved more than 300 miles away to Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. The plan, Kemba says, was for Peter to live with her, but during the fall semester he didn't come as he'd promised.

Instead, Peter remained in the Hampton University area, moving into a two-bedroom apartment in Newport News with a mutual friend, a female college student who would later have a baby by him. (She would find out during the course of the relationship that Peter already had three children, all by different mothers.)

Kemba believed the relationship between Peter and his roommate, whom she calls her "ex-best-friend," was one of "brother and sister." She calls herself "naive" now for not realizing that it became more.

And yet, despite the distance and Peter's divided attention, Kemba says he still managed to maintain a grip on her. They talked daily, and he berated her for the minutiae of her behavior.

Around this time, the Smiths, already alienated from their daughter, became increasingly anxious when bounty hunters began contacting them, trying to locate Peter and others through Kemba. Gus and Odessa had met Peter, whom they knew as Khalif, only twice. They didn't know he was their daughter's boyfriend. He had told them he was a pre-law student, and impressed them as "polite," if not warm. The worst they could say about him was that during one of the visits, he had shocked Odessa by asking for a beer.

One day, Kemba got a call from a bounty hunter asking about Peter. She spoke to him for about 10 minutes, trying not to give any information. Then she called Peter and he told her to come to Newport News.

There, enraged because he didn't trust her account of the call, Hall took her in the back bedroom and beat her with a belt.

"When I was on the floor and he was kicking me," Kemba says, "he kneeled down and grabbed me by my neck and he was like, 'Don't you know that I can kill you?' "

She remembers looking at herself in a mirror after the beating, standing in a bra and panties, bruises on her back and down her legs.

"I was pretty much still in shock from everything, body shaking, crying and stuff. He like kind of lay back on the bed and told me to dance for him. And he turned on the CD player and started playing music. I was violated. Violated and embarrassed."

She began to dance, crying. He stopped her. "He told me to 'come here' and I went to him and he was holding me and telling me he's sorry . . . and he was just trying to look out for my best interests."

In the winter of '92-93, Peter finally came to Charlotte to live with her.

In February, he was arrested on a drug charge in New York. Kemba bailed him out with money given to her by Peter's brother. Peter soon found a reason to become enraged, and beat her again. Shortly after returning to Charlotte, she suffered a miscarriage. She asked her father to wire her money for a bus trip home, and was sitting on the bus in the station when Peter rushed onto it, saying, "Don't you know you can't leave me?"

She didn't leave him.

In May 1993, Kemba learned just how far Peter would go to punish transgressions. Peter, his female roommate from Newport News and his best friend, Derrick "D" Taylor, left Charlotte on a road trip. They didn't tell Kemba where or why.

In Dinwiddie County, Va., Peter murdered his friend, Taylor, while his female friend waited for him up the road, according to court testimony and federal indictments. He called Kemba and had her meet them with a car in a hotel parking lot in Charlotte. Peter and his friend left their van in the lot, dropped Kemba at home, then fled in the car to Atlanta.

Kemba did her part in silence.

"I knew that there was something going on because I could sense the tension, and [the female friend] wasn't saying anything and [Peter] wasn't saying anything and I was pretty much scared to ask."

Then, Peter called and told Kemba to remove various items from the house--including guns and photographs--and put them in a rented storage shed. Days later, she traveled to Atlanta, where Peter, who had taken an apartment with the other woman, told her the news: He had killed Taylor because he suspected he had been cooperating with federal agents.

Kemba was shocked but scared to show any reaction. She had baby-sat Taylor's twins, and she wanted to cry. Later, the three watched a violent film that included a scene of a man who'd been shot.

"That's how that nigga D went out," Kemba recalls Peter saying. He was laughing.

When Peter told her around this time that he suspected her father had been helping the government, Kemba began to worry for her parents.

Later that summer, Peter instructed Kemba to meet with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service to find out what she could about their investigation.

Even as agents offered Kemba immunity in exchange for cooperation, she told them lies that Peter had constructed. No, she said, she'd never met Peter's brother, Unique. No, she knew nothing about the murder of Derrick Taylor. She told authorities that she was a prostitute.

After giving Peter a rundown of the interview, she returned to her parents' home near Richmond, and began a tense five-month hiatus from her boyfriend. She enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University and began an administrative job at the Virginia Housing Development Authority. Despite the fact that she and Peter spoke frequently on the phone, Kemba's life had begun to feel almost normal again. She contemplated what it would be like to be without Peter, but still was afraid to break up with him.

Peter was in Atlanta until November, when his female friend was arrested. He escaped capture by nearly running over a Hampton vice detective and a DEA agent in his car, according to the grand jury's indictment. He fled to New Orleans, then Houston.

Unbeknown to the Smiths, Kemba was still in touch with him by telephone and was wiring money to him--her own and her parents'.

In December, just days before a grand jury handed up an indictment of Peter, Kemba and 10 other defendants, Peter called, asking Kemba to meet him.

She simply left the house for work one day and didn't come back. She met Peter in Houston, and for nine months they were on the lam, in the Southwest and on the West Coast. Despite his precarious circumstances, Peter was still out for revenge. In San Diego, he tried to track down the erstwhile roommate and girlfriend who had assisted him with Derrick Taylor's murder, because he suspected her of turning to the authorities. He couldn't find her.


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