A Whitfield County jury returned verdicts on Thursday finding 53-year-old Richard Marvin Smith guilty of rape and criminal attempt to commit kidnapping stemming from events on March 30, 2019.
Smith, of 172 Shirley Way, Dalton, faces 25 years to life in prison for rape with the possibility of life without parole plus an additional one-to-10 years for the attempted kidnapping conviction. He 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.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Higgins presented the case for the state and was assisted by Detective Dewayne Holmes of the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office.
Concerning the jury’s verdict, Higgins stated: “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 and concluded with the verdict being announced in the early evening.
Evidence presented by the state included testimony of the victim as well as three co-defendants of Smith who were also charged with offenses stemming from the incident.
The victim, a recovering meth addict, testified that she and Amy Jones (aka Amy Walden), an acquaintance of hers, had been using meth 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, Jones’ ex-boyfriend Marlon Bradford “Marty” Burk of Chatsworth was there and recognized the victim 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 Jones, 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 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, strip searched, deprived of her phone and vehicle, and kept from leaving the residence.
When Burk and Jones left the residence for a period of time, leaving Forrest and Smith with instructions to keep the victim detained, was when the victim testified 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.
Jones, who prior to the trial pled guilty to false imprisonment, testified for the state and corroborated the victim’s account of the events and her part of the unlawful detention. Jones’ testimony indicated that while Smith never made specific threats to 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. 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 Jones when they had located the victim and Jones unsuccessfully told the victim to get in the car, “She is not going to get in the car with me.”
Jones is scheduled to be sentenced on June 15 at 9 a.m. by Minter. Burk, who also pled guilty prior to the trial to 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 Tuesday at 9 a.m. by Minter.
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 serving a 30-year sentence, including 12 years without the possibility of parole, for 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 Jones had taken the night of the assault was at the Walmart parking lot off East Walnut Avenue. 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 pointed 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 by the body camera of a Whitfield County sheriff’s deputy who accompanied Detective 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, he then admitted intercourse with the victim and made several inconsistent statements including 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 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 he made that statement.