Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Vincent Smothers wears death all over his body. The self-professed hit man is tattooed on his arms, back, legs and chest — permanent reminders of friends and loved ones who died before him. The names, tombstones and dates of their deaths are impressively etched on his 6-foot-1 lanky frame.
Smothers, 27, says he's no stranger to death. He told police that he stealthily freelanced seven slayings on Detroit's poverty-stricken east side from 2006 to the end of last year.
He said he mostly killed drug dealers who either owed a debt, stole the merchandise or had infringed on someone else's turf. But he also has confessed to killing two men who were targeted as federal informants and a Detroit police sergeant's wife.
In his confession, Smothers told police that he wasn't remorseful until he killed the sergeant's wife.
For the occasion, he donned suits, ties and sunglasses, and usually carried at least two guns — an AK47 and a .40-caliber pistol — for efficiency. He said he practiced shooting at a gun range between jobs.
After high school, Smothers told police he began stealing cars, dabbling in the drug world and robbing dope houses before graduating to contract killings in 2006 for one motivation: money.
By many accounts, Smothers is a soft-spoken and charming man with a handsome smile and a polished persona — certainly not a man who embodied a murder-for-hire existence.
After his April 19 arrest, Smothers described to police the two lives he led: one with his wife and newborn daughter in a tidy townhouse complex in Shelby Township, where he would walk his beloved poodle and politely speak to neighbors; the other as a man who matter-of-factly detailed his deadly trail for police.
Smothers said his first kill occurred on Aug. 16, 2006, in front of a reputed drug house on Strasburg near Gratiot.
He was hired to kill two brothers, but only one was there at the time. Adrian Thornton, 27, was killed by gunshot wounds to the head, chest and legs. Another 28-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound to the left side of the head, but survived.
Weathered teddy bears mark the grassy spot across the street where Thornton collapsed on his back after running from the house.
But Smothers did not forget the other half of his assignment.
Waiting about five months to the day, Smothers said he returned to the Strasburg neighborhood on Jan. 17, 2007, to gun down Carl Thornton, 29. Neighbors said Smothers laid in wait in an abandoned house and ambushed Thornton and a 22-year-old woman, who was shot in the buttocks but survived. Neighbor Nancy Jenkins, 58, said she hit the floor and called 911 when the shooting started. She said she peeked out her window and saw Thornton lying facedown on his front porch, and a woman bleeding and crawling toward her house.
"They sounded like automatic cannons," Jenkins recalled of the gunshots. "I heard it was a hit — that they had stole something from a drug man," she said.
Police say Smothers told them he was hired to kill Marshall White Jr., 56, and Johnny Marshall, 64, because they were believed to be federal informants. The men were found dead about noon May 24, 2007, at Jos. Campau and the I-94 eastbound service drive.
Police found the car with the hood up. White was shot in the head outside the car, and Marshall was in the passenger seat with a gunshot to the face.
A federal source who requested anonymity said the case is under investigation. Smothers has not been charged in those killings.
But he is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the June 21, 2007, fatal shootings of Clarence Cherry, 34, and Gaudrielle Webster, 18. Cherry was struck 20 times in the head, abdomen, leg, arm and chest. Another woman, Karsia Rice, 18, survived the attack on Gravier, off Cadieux near Mack.
Smothers' accomplice, Lakari Berry, 27, was arrested shortly after the shootout and is serving life in prison with no chance of parole for the killings. Smothers confessed to police that he was the other shooter.
Meanwhile, Smothers has told police he is prepared to take full responsibility for his actions.

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