Motel death suspect convicted in similar case

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A 52-year-old Columbia man charged with killing a woman at an eastern Missouri motel was previously convicted of killing another woman at a Springfield motel nearly three decades ago.

Curtis L. Smith was released on parole in March 2010 after spending 26 years in prison for the March 1984 killing. He’s now back in prison at the Eastern Reception and Diagnostic Center in Bonne Terre, charged with violating parole. He had received a life sentence for second-degree murder.

Smith is now charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, theft and misdemeanor possession of marijuana in the Nov. 17 death of Kristi Murphy, 52, at a Microtel Inn in Ste. Genevieve County. Smith was Murphy’s live-in boyfriend.

The victim had worked as a nurse at Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia. The pair reportedly met four months ago at University Hospital in Columbia, where both were patients.

Ste. Genevieve police chief Eric Bennett said officers initially responded to a reported suicide at the motel. Smith told police that Murphy hanged herself with a shower curtain, and he used a knife found by police to cut the curtain and release Murphy.

But investigators found no knot on the shower curtain, police said. Nor was any part of the curtain around Murphy’s neck.

According to police, Smith said he witnessed prison murders staged to look like suicides. He also provided a demonstration in the motel bathroom, police said.

Detectives “were suspicious that Mr. Smith had staged the scene because he appeared to be more concerned about the scene remaining intact than he was about Ms. Murphy,” court documents state.

Smith’s estranged wife said he suffers from blackouts, and Smith told police he had trouble remembering the details of Murphy’s death.

Detectives suggested Smith either helped Murphy commit suicide or killed her to satisfy “homicidal fantasies,” according to court documents.

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