Who Let a Killer Into Erika Smith's World?
Two weeks ago I wrote about Erika Smith, who would have turned 13 in June had she not been shot to death four years earlier. The same column introduced you to Anthony Kelly, the repeat offender accused of shooting and killing Erika and her father, Gregory Russell, on the night of Aug. 6, 2002. Today let's take a closer look at the worlds occupied by Erika and her alleged assailant. The two should never have crossed paths.
As described by a friend, S.B.: "I'm 13. I, as well as my friends, knew Erika very well. We had kind of a little group, and Erika was always the peacekeeper among us. She was almost like a mother, scolding us when we did something wrong and giggling at everything. She was always happy, and I don't think I ever saw her cry. Everything we did, there she was, laughing. Whenever we played anything, she was Kimmy. When we played Spongebob, she was Kimmy. When we played Make Your Own Story, she was Kimmy. When we played Evil Alien Monsters, she was . . . well, I think you get the picture. Anyway, what I guess I'm trying to say is that, in our own different ways, I guess we loved Erika. When she died, we all kind of fell apart. But we had to rely on each other and build each other back up. And now our bond within the group is stronger than ever. What I'm trying to say is that I really don't care what you have to do, or how you get it done. Bring the murderer to justice. Please."
From Dec. 12, 2001, to March 7, 2002, Kelly was in the custody of Hope Village, a halfway house on Langston Place SE sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
While in Hope Village, Kelly claimed to have been employed, a condition of his release from prison. In fact, he had a sham job arrangement with his stepfather. He also drove stolen vehicles during that time. Hope Village never sought to verify his employment. It also didn't know that his sham job was with a relative -- another violation of Bureau of Prisons regulations. Kelly, according to the rules, should have been returned to prison.
Here is a glimpse into the Hope Village world that Anthony Kelly occupied, as reflected in a June 12, 2006, affidavit of Darnell Davis:
"I was the case manager assigned to Anthony Kelly and am knowledgeable about Hope Village's case management policies and practices at the time. . . . It was difficult to meet all of my duties because of the number of residents I was required to supervise at any one time."
"I do not know whether Anthony Kelly's supervisor [employer] was contacted for employment verification."
"I have no information that any on-site visits were made to Anthony Kelly's place of employment after the initial visit. I have no information that even the initial contact with the employer was done on-site."
"I have no information that Anthony Kelly was ever visited in person outside Hope Village."
"When I wrote that Kelly maintained employment until his departure on the final progress report, this only meant that I had not been given any information that he had stopped working. I don't know at the time whether Kelly was still employed when he left."