Prince George's County prosecutors had no weapon, no confession and no eyewitnesses when they went to trial this week to try to persuade a jury to convict Lorence F. Smith in the fatal shooting of a young Temple Hills man three years ago.
Smith, however, made one big mistake before his arrest, according to court testimony: He showed victim Don J. Beach Jr.'s obituary to two people and bragged, "Look what I did."
The Circuit Court jury believed him.
After two hours of deliberations yesterday, the jury convicted Smith, 26, of second-degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.
Beach, 21, was fatally shot in the parking lot of an Oxon Hill housing complex about 8 p.m. June 13, 2002. According to police charging documents, Beach was using a cell phone when a man ran up behind him and shot him several times in the head and torso.
A few days later, Smith showed a clipping of Beach's obituary in The Washington Post to a friend and a cousin and boasted that he was responsible, according to court testimony. Both testified against him at the trial.
"The defendant told his buddies and his cousin about what he did, and now it's coming back to haunt him," Assistant State's Attorney Robin Bright told jurors in her closing argument yesterday.
One witness told a Prince George's homicide detective that Smith claimed he had killed Beach because Beach was "messing" with his girlfriend. However, no clear motive emerged during the trial, prosecution and defense attorneys said.
It wasn't the first time prosecutors used Smith's words against him.
Two years ago, a D.C. Superior Court jury convicted him of first-degree murder for fatally shooting Ricardo Keys, 23, in Northeast Washington about three weeks after the Beach shooting. In that case, an aunt and a cousin of Smith's testified that he'd boasted about committing the crime.
Keys was shot twice in the back of the head shortly after he left a 7-Eleven store, where he had bought a soda and chips, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Federal prosecutors said Keys's murder was motivated by a fight Smith had with him seven years before the shooting. Smith harbored his resentment toward Keys for those seven years and pledged to exact revenge one day, prosecutors said.
Although no murder weapon was found in the Prince George's slaying, a firearms examiner testified that the 9mm shell casings discovered at the Beach murder scene were fired from the same gun that killed Keys.
Smith was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering Keys and for weapons violations. He faces a possible sentence of 50 years for the Prince George's murder. Prince George's Circuit Court Judge Sean D. Wallace scheduled sentencing for Aug. 12.