By: Tony Best
A brutal murder of a pregnant West Indian mother in Brooklyn is bringing back memories of one of the most notorious episodes in America’s recent history: the ambushing and killing of 10 unsuspecting strangers by snipers in the Washington D.C. area in 2002.
Both tragic cases, last week-end’s stabbing death of a 38 year old Jamaican mother, Vindalee Smith, whose throat was slashed a day before her wedding, and the killing spree perpetrated a decade ago by a two-member sniper team, one of whom, Lee Boyd Malvo, was a Jamaican immigrant, have unnerved the Caribbean immigrant community.
In a bizarre twist that linked the two tragedies, police officers found a computer-generated note under Smith’s body vowing to kill more expectant mothers unless Malvo was released from prison.
“The note was underneath the body” and it was “discovered
when they rolled her over,” the police told reporters.
Smith, the mother of four children, was about two weeks away from giving birth to her fifth child, a boy, and while detectives didn’t classify the woman’s husband-to-be, Anthony Jackman, as a suspect or a person of interest, they have spent a considerable amount of time interviewing him about the murder and who could have done it.
The victim, a devout Seventh-Day Adventist, was found dead on a blood splattered floor of the apartment by her landlord after church-goers and relatives became concerned when she didn’t turn up for a Saturday morning service.
“She was always on time – always the first person at church,” explained Tyler Harrigan,” a fellow worshipper. “When the news (of her death) came to the church, the whole church broke down.”
Sybil Samuel, a friend of the dead woman just couldn’t make sense of the tragedy.
“I can’t begin to imagine who would want to do that,” Samuel said. “It would be the devil to kill a woman with a child in her stomach. They killed two people.”
The body was found several hours before the Jamaican was due to attend a baby-shower at an Eastern Parkway apartment to celebrate the upcoming birth of her child, who didn’t survive the attack.
“We were looking forward to that baby,” asserted Samuel.
The detectives investigating the crime were left puzzled because of the absence of evidence of a forced entry into the apartment, leaving them to wonder if the killer was someone she knew. They didn’t find a weapon or any other evidence that would link her death to Malvo, who is now 27 years old and in a Virginia prison for the rest of his life.
At the time of her death, Smith was experiencing a tough financial time, largely because she was unemployed and had to rely on Seventh Day Adventists for a place to live.
“She had a very positive outlook on life in spite of the many financial struggles she was having,” said Pastor Ferron Francis of her Brooklyn church.
The note found at the scene and the threat about more killings unless Malvo was released came a few weeks after he described himself as a “monster” when the deadly shootings over a 21-day period in Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland. The Jamaican, 17 years old at the time, was portrayed in court as a willing accomplice of John Allen Muhammad, an army veteran, who befriended Malvo and became his surrogate father in Antigua and the United States.
“I was a monster,” Malvo told the Washington Post in a rare interview conducted last month at the Red Onion State prison in Virginia. “If you look up the definition, that’s what a monster is. I was a ghoul. I was a thief. I stole people’s lives. I did someone else’s bidding (Muhammad) because they said so. There is no rhyme or reason or sense.”
The convicted killer whose life was spared by the court because jurors became convinced that Muhammad had Malvo under a spell and could get him to do anything, even without saying a word. However, Muhammad was executed three years ago for the crimes.
“The groundwork was laid in Antigua because I leaned on him,” Malvo said. “I trusted him. I was unable to distinguish between Muhammad the father I wanted and Muhammad the nervous wreck that was falling to pieces. He understood exactly how to motivate me by giving approval or denying approval. It’s very subtle. It wasn’t violent at all. It’s like what a pimp does to a woman.
For three weeks a decade ago, Muhammad and Malvo instigated a reign of terror in the Washington area, killing or injuring people at will. Victims of different races were shot at different times and in different places --- gas stations, parking lots and in front of a middle school, for instance. Sporting events were cancelled; parents kept their children from school and motorists were worried about going to service stations for gas or repairs, fearing they would be shot.