COLUMBIA, SC — So who is Marcus Bailey, the ex-Army combat vet who was convicted Wednesday of killing Almanita Smith and dumping her decomposed body on her front lawn while her friends and family worried where she was?
A toxic mix of stupidity, arrogance and just plain old-fashioned evil, is prosecutor Luck Campbell’s answer.
A self-destructive solder at Fort Jackson who went into a downward spiral after returning from Iraq, Marcus Bailey began to blame everything bad in his life on everything but himself, Campbell said. But Bailey was so stupid he told others about killing Smith, and those people testified at trial – bringing crucial evidence that resulted in a 50-year prison sentence for murder.
Campbell won over a jury of seven women and five men in her closing arguments as she summed up the testimony of 37 prosecution witnesses in a Richland County courtroom.
Her voice laced with sarcasm, Campbell told the jury, “Marcus is always getting a raw deal. Marcus isn’t responsible for his actions. The Army did him wrong. Almanita did him wrong.”
According to trial testimony from U.S. Army Capt. Jason Parker, Bailey was a E-6 drill sergeant at Fort Jackson’s drill sergeant school when he started missing formations and going AWOL. After his superiors’ attempts to get him straightened out failed, the Army reduced his pay and rank to E-4 and sent him to a headquarters unit.
There, Parker testified, Bailey was given another chance. But again, he repeatedly failed to report to work and was reported AWOL. Such behavior isn’t tolerated in the Army. Bailey was reduced in pay and rank to E-1 – the lowest private – and forced out of the Army.
Parker testified Bailey’s behavior was such that he wanted Bailey to get a less than honorable discharge. Yet, the Army, recognizing Bailey’s service, wound up giving him a general conduct, honorable discharge that would allow Bailey to receive medical and psychological help at Veterans Administration hospitals, Campbell told the jury.
“Our Army tried to work with him – gave him chance after chance after chance,” Campbell told the jury.
But Bailey failed to take advantage of the benefits and began to date Smith, winding up living at her house on Heron Glen Drive, several miles north of Fort Jackson.
At the time, Smith, 26, an Army veteran of the Iraqi war herself, was an E-6 staff sergeant who had gotten out of the Army but was on an ROTC track to become a second lieutenant.
“She was hardworking, had everything going for her,” Campbell said. Smith, a Columbus, Ga.-native, had a large and loving set of family, friends and co-workers with whom she was frequently in contact.
Trial testimony indicated Bailey, who was unemployed, had a sexual relationship with Smith early in 2012 after he left the Army. As the months went by, their relationship cooled, but he – unemployed – continued living at her house rent free. She apparently was trying to get him to move out when she was killed on or about Aug. 16 of last year, Campbell told the jury.
Several days before her body was found, Smith’s family and friends began calling police, asking them to check on her. When they came by the house, Bailey told different stories about where she was, witnesses testified. After repeated visits by friends and police, the body appeared.
Once her body was discovered on the front lawn Aug. 23, Bailey became a fast suspect. Arrested on murder charges, he spent six months in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
While there, Bailey told other inmates how he killed Almanita and that he would beat the charges because of his “Dream Team” lawyers, according to the testimony of one inmate. Bailey told that inmate, Edward Walker, that he cut his fingernails after strangling Smith so no DNA would be found under his nails.
Bailey deliberately kept the body in the house for a week because he believed it would be so decomposed no one could ever prove the cause of death, and that would be enough for his “Dream Team” – a reference to his defense attorneys Jake Moore and Stanley Myers – to get him off, Campbell told the jury.
Near the end of her closing statements, Campbell approached the jury, holding up two photographs. One was a picture of Smith, an attractive happy young woman. The other was a picture of her decomposing, swollen, half-naked body on her lawn. Some jurors looked away; others winced.
“This,” said Campbell, referring first to the photo of the living Smith and then to her dead, “because of Marcus Bailey – turned into this.”
“He had no respect for her. She was just a means to an end. All we ask is that you hold him responsible for what he did, the choices he made, the cover-up he perpetuated,” Campbell said. “Almanita Smith is never coming back. Give her justice.”
Three hours later, the jury came back with a guilty verdict.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.