Residents Live in Fear: The Annie Smith Murder
by Lewis Loflin
86-year-old Annie Bell Smith was found strangled in her apartment at Springdale Village apartment complex, an area known for it's high crime rates and drug problems. She was found dead Sunday July 10, 2011 by her pastor when he came to pick her up for church. She "spoke" her mind and the police are still closed lipped on details.
Anthony Chinnie Jemes Jr., 28, and Daniel Anthony Henry, 18, have both been charged with capital murder and robbery and now reside in the Bristol Virginia jail without bond. They lived upstairs from the victim and police say drugs wasn't a factor, but it was just robbery. There appears to be no real motive.
According to police, "They were just out here talking to everybody. No conscience about what they'd done. They were walking around acting like everything was normal." To quote the press,
Henry had been in the area for two months and Jemes, who is originally from Petersburg, Va., said he had been in Bristol about a year. Neither man had a job or more than a high school education - Henry didn't advance past the 10th grade. According to the documents, Jemes said he was getting money because of a disability, and Henry told officials he didn't know what his financial resources were...Henry had a criminal record as a juvenile, and Jemes had been arrested previously on possession of marijuana charges.
As of March 2013 neither man has been convicted of anything and are presumed innocent!
Springdale Village is a 136 unit Section 8 public housing unit. It seems the press and police have failed to mention that fact. Like most public housing it's riddled with crime and residents often live in fear. The victim's friend Martha Lindsay says of the place, "It ain't safe here" as she screamed back (at) a statement a neighbor made while being interviewed by the local press. Further she said, "We don't feel safe here at night time." (BHC July 12, 2011)
Complaints varied from burned out lighting and simply locking doors instead of fixing them, to no lights in the parking lot. Lindsey and others kept their doors locked even when they went out to get the mail. This from the press sums up the situation in much of the public housing in Bristol:
She (Lindsey) said Smith dealt with this problem by keeping the door locked - even when she left her apartment for a few minutes to pick up her mail from the mailboxes at the bottom of the building's stairs. Smith also never opened her door to strangers at night...and often placed a microwave stand in front of her door to serve as one more added measure of security.
But there was one kink in the armor Smith built up around her and her Springdale Village apartment. Every evening before Smith went to bed, Lindsay said, the 86-year-old woman would open her door, step outside, grab her welcome mat and take it inside before it was stolen or got wet in the rain.
Lindsay's certain whoever killed Smith used this ritual as a chance to get inside her apartment. It all happened sometime after 5 p.m. Saturday, she said, because that's when Smith stopped by to tell her she had picked out the outfit she planned to wear to church.
Crime is simply out of control around most public housing because of a lack of police presence or real security of any kind. At one time Bristol, Virginia opened an auxiliary police station in Rice Terrace as I remember to put officers on patrol and track the numinous people on probation in the area. That ended when a Federal (state?) grant ran out. Otherwise it seems people are dumped into these places simply to be ignored and forgotten.
My suggestion to fix this is simple: enforce a curfew on those under 18 from 9 PM to 7 AM unless accompanied by an adult guardian. Also keep those that don't live in the complex out of the area during curfew and enforce rules barring those that aren't registered as tenants from occupying the units. Able bodied adults such as these two need to be removed and crack down on those living together. Most important is police patrols and substations in the projects themselves to keep close track of who is wondering the streets.
If we had this Annie Smith would likely be alive today.
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