An Alexandria Circuit Court jury last Friday found Rodney Eric Smith, 31, guilty of raping and killing Alexandrian Juantissa Hill last December, recommending a life sentence in prison and an additional combined term of 70 years for robbery and grand larceny in related crimes, which Judge Donald Haddock signed into order.
Alexandria police officers found Hill, 24, dead in her Van Dorn Street apartment December 2 of last year after co-workers from her Pentagon office became worried when Hill did not report to work as a Navy petty officer.
Further investigation revealed that Hill had been strangled on December 1. Missing from her apartment were a recently purchased flat screen television and computer, Commonwealths Attorney Randy Sengel said. Hills Nissan Altima was also missing, prompting a search for the vehicle that would eventually lead investigators to Smith.
Hills car was found several days later abandoned in a parking lot behind an apartment complex in Prince Georges County a few hundred feet from Smiths residence, Sengel said in an email.
Witnesses from a Maryland towing company testified because an employee towed Hills missing car when the driver discovered it parked in a location near the residence of Smith, according to court documents.
Through a series of witnesses, video surveillance, DNA tests and other forensic examinations, prosecutors proved to the jury that Smith had sodomized and strangled Hill before making off with her car and electronics.
Court documents reveal that forensic examiners tested multiple samples Hills clothing and other belongings for DNA, including a condom that was tied to Smith. The probability of randomly selecting an unrelated individual with a DNA profile matching the ones developed from such sources at the crime scene is 1 in greater than 6.5 billion (which is approximately the world population) in the Caucasian, Black, and Hispanic populations, the states Department of Forensic Science concluded in an analysis.
Witnesses stated that Smith tried selling them a flat screen television in December of last year before leaving the area for Erie, Penn., according to Sengel.
Alexandria detectives worked with the Naval Criminal Investigative Services in solving the case, Alexandria Deputy Chief Blaine Corle said last year, and as in most rape cases concluded that the victim and her murderer knew each other prior to the day of the incident.
Part of the evidence entered in the trial was surveillance footage from a Home Depot showing Hill and Smith together shortly before she was killed, according to Sengel.
This was not a stranger case, Corle said. We do know that they had some prior contact. We dont have any reason to think that this was a case in which there wasnt any danger to the public of a random assault.
Haddock sentenced Smith to 50 years imprisonment for grand larceny and 20 years for robbery in addition to the life sentence for first-degree murder. Smith will serve the sentence in a Virginia state penitentiary.