Dale Corey Smith will spend 25 years in prison for murdering his 9-year-old son, Dale Corey Smith Jr., and Smith’s wife, Kristie, will spend three years in prison for failing to intervene in her husband’s abuse of the child.
The little boy was known as Dale. Spectators at the sentencing hearing in Alexandria Circuit Court on Jan. 25 wept as Dale’s mother, Angela, in Alexandria from Mississippi for the sentencing, spoke about her young son.
“Dale was a lovable child,” she said. “He liked to give hugs, and he liked to get hugs. He had some special needs, but he was improving. He was doing things that the doctors never thought he would do. He could communicate – maybe not exactly like you and I communicate, but he could make himself understood. You just had to be patient and try to look at the big picture with him. He was very attached to me, and sometimes he would even follow me to the bathroom because he was trying to tell me something and didn’t want to forget what he was going to say. He was my whole life.
"I had some problems with depression before, and I decided that I had to move on and think of Dale and make a good life for him. He was the reason that I got up in the morning and the reason that I went on living. We had a good life — sometimes it was hard because I didn’t like to leave him with baby sitters, but it was a good life. Now, there’s no reason to get up in the morning, and I find myself wanting to be home when school is out,, but then I realize Dale’s not coming home anymore.”
Angela Smith lived in Gulf Port, Miss., with her son. She and Dale’s father were divorced when the boy was only 2, and Smith had little contact with the boy until Christmas of 2000.
At that time, Angela contacted Smith to request that he allow her boyfriend to adopt Dale. Smith said no to that request and made arrangements for Dale to come to Alexandria for a visit. “He said that he wanted to be part of Dale’s life, and I thought that would be good for my son,” Angela said.
By all accounts, that visit went well, and Angela agreed to allow Dale to return to Virginia for the summer.
“They said they would include Dale on their insurance, and I thought maybe the doctors here in Virginia are better than the ones in Mississippi,” Angela said. “If Dale could get some help, I was even willing to move here. I would do anything to make Dale’s life easier and better.”
She got on a bus in May and brought the boy to his father, stepmother and two half-siblings. The trip took two days, and she turned around and went immediately home. While Dale was with his father, Angela was able to work longer hours at the Winn Dixie grocery store.
“I wanted to earn some extra money so that I could buy Dale things for going back to school and so that he could have a good Christmas,” Angela said.
According to testimony, Angela wasn’t able to speak to her son after his first week in Virginia. It was then that the beatings began, according to testimony.
Smith and his wife, Kristie, believed in military-style punishment of their own children and of Dale. They made the boy do calisthenics, stand in the apartment hallway and run up and down the hallway and the stairs of the building.
“I just wanted to help him get better,” Smith said at his sentencing. “I didn’t mean to kill my son.”
CAUSE OF DEATH
Deputy Medical Examiner Frances Field testified that Dale died from blunt force trauma. She found 50 new bruises, 50 healing bruises and five old bruises on all parts of the child’s body. “New bruises are those that occur within hours before death,” Field said.
She testified that either the blow to the child’s abdomen or one of the blows to his head could have caused his death. Her conclusion was that the child bled to death internally.
“The beating lasted for eight hours, and then Dale crawled into bed at 8 in the morning to die, without crying because he had learned that crying only made it worse,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Pollard.
Kristie Smith, who admitted to hitting Dale during the month that he lived in Alexandria, knew that her husband was beating and disciplining the child with exercise that night of June 25 and June 26, 2001, and yet she gave the boy a shower, had a couple of drinks and went to bed, “knowing that Corey Smith and Dale were still up and knowing that Dale was being beaten,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Erik Barnette. “She went to work the next morning and never called authorities.”
Defense attorneys provided psychological and psychiatric testimony that both Smith and Kristie were abused as children. Both of the Smiths apologized for their behavior, both to the court and to Angela.
“I know I should have done something, and I’m sorry that I didn’t,” Kristie Smith said.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office asked Judge Alfred Swersky to sentence Smith to a longer prison term than is indicated in the sentencing guidelines. Those guidelines suggest 17 to 22 years in prison for felony murder. Swersky agreed and sentenced Smith to 35 years, with 15 suspended, and to serve five years in prison for child abuse, the sentences to be served consecutively. He will be released, then, after serving 25 years in prison and then will spend 15 years on supervised probation.
Kristie Smith was sentenced to five years in prison, with two suspended. After her release, she will spend an additional five years on supervised probation.
“Both of these sentences are fair,” Barnette said. “We wanted to send a message in both cases. In the case of Kristie Smith, we want people to understand that when you have a responsibility to intervene and you don’t, in the case of child abuse, you are going to be punished.”
The two remaining Smith children are in foster care.