Local News

Suspect: Husband requested wife's death several times

Posted October 7, 2008 9:45 a.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2008 6:15 p.m. EDT

— A Fort Bragg soldier repeatedly asked an 18-year-old colleague to kill his wife – also a soldier – and eventually offered $30,000 for the deed to be carried out, the 18-year-old told authorities in police records released Monday.

According to a search warrant affidavit, Army Pfc. Matthew Kvapil told investigators he dressed in black and hid in bushes on Sept. 30 while Sgt. Richard Smith, 26, and his wife, Sgt. Christina Smith, 29, walked near their home. When the pair passed his hiding spot, he told investigators, he jumped out and stabbed the woman to death.

Both men appeared in court Monday, charged with one count each of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Superior Court Judge Tal Baggett scheduled probable cause hearings for Oct. 23 for both men. Both will also receive court-appointed attorneys.

Relatives and friends of the defendants rushed past reporters on their way out, declining through a sheriff's office spokeswoman to comment.

According to an affidavit, detective Jeff Locklear said someone came forward with information about the case. The person, whose name was not released, said they had been approached more than once by Richard Smith about killing his wife. The person said told police they refused to take part and told the detective that Richard Smith had talked to others about murdering his wife.

The search warrant affidavit entered in court Monday stated that officers responding to an emergency call the night of the slaying found Richard Smith holding his wife, stabbed and bleeding, in the roadway near their Fayetteville home.

Richard Smith first told police an attacker stabbed his wife in the neck and fled as he chased after him. She died on the way to the hospital.

Officials who interviewed Richard Smith at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center later that night mentioned that his voice sounded robotic as he recounted the events that led to his wife's death. He also mentioned having picked up a friend – Kvapil – to buy supplies for an upcoming camping trip.

When Locklear spoke to Richard Smith a second time, Smith “changed his rendition of the attack and how it occurred several times,” according to the affidavit. Smith said he and Kvapil had plotted a fake mugging to scare Christina Smith.

In a second interview with authorities, Kvapil said Richard Smith had propositioned him at least twice about killing Christina Smith. Richard Smith said he'd done it before, Kvapil told police, and mentioned how lucrative murder-for-hire could be. Kvapil told authorities he wanted to back out when he realized who the victim was but Richard Smith told him he would “send someone after him” if he did not carry out the plan," according to warrants.

Police would not comment on details of the search warrants, and it was not clear whether they took seriously Kvapil's claims of having been paid for slayings.

Richard Smith told authorities he'd mentioned having his wife killed to people several times, but only in fun.

Kvapil led authorities to the knife used in the attack, according to the warrant. He had discarded it in a creek several miles from the crime scene.

Officials took several items from the Smiths' home on Sunday, the warrant stated, including a computer, leather gloves, various personal documents and several "sharp-edged weapons."

A spokeswoman for the Army's Special Operations Command said Richard Smith, of Denton, Texas, had returned in June from 10 months in Iraq. Kvapil, of Santee, Calif., joined the Army in 2007. Christina Smith, of Mount Orab, Ohio, enlisted in September 2005.

All three were assigned to the 4th Psychological Operations Group.

Christina Smith's death marked the third time in four months that a husband or lover has been charged with murder in the death of a soldier based at Fort Bragg. It follows the slayings of Spc. Megan Touma, 23, and 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc, 24. It also comes less than a year after Marine Corps Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, stationed at Camp Lejeune, was found dead. A fellow Marine faces a murder charge in her death and is awaiting extradition from Mexico.