Rodney Eric Smith, 31, was sentenced to life+70 years in prison for the December, 2008, murder of Juantissa Hill.
Smith’s trial began on Monday, Oct. 26, in Alexandria Circuit Court and lasted for three days. The jury deliberated for one day before finding him guilty of first degree murder, robbery and grand larceny.
The jury recommended that Smith receive a sentence of life in prison on the murder conviction, 50 years for robbery and 20 years for grand larceny.
Before imposing sentence, Alexandria Chief Circuit Judge Donald M. Haddock asked Smith if he wanted the probation office to complete a pre-sentence report, but Smith declined. Haddock accepted the jury’s recommendation.
“Our case was circumstantial but we had strong DNA evidence and a security tape that showed the defendant and Ms. Hill shopping together at the Home Depot shortly before she was killed,” said Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel.
On December 2, 2008, Hill’s co-workers at the Pentagon became concerned when she did not appear for work. One of Hill’s female friends went to her West End apartment, and, when she got no response, called police. Law enforcement officers entered the apartment and found Hill’s body. Her ankles were bound with a scarf and she had been strangled. During the autopsy, the medical examiner also found evidence of blunt force trauma to her head.
Hill, 24, was an enlisted member of the United States Navy and worked in the office of administrative support for the Chief of Naval Operations. A recently purchased flat screen television and a laptop computer were missing from her apartment.
Hill’s missing car was found several days later in a parking lot behind an apartment complex in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a few hundred feet from Smith’s residence. Smith’s fingerprints, the items Smith and Hill purchased at the Home Depot and a used condom with Smith’s and Hill’s DNA were found in Hill’s apartment.
Witnesses testified that Smith had offered a flat screen television for sale in early December, 2008, and that he left the area shortly thereafter and traveled to Erie, Pennsylvania, under a false name.
Smith’s attorney called no witnesses, and argued that none of the evidence presented by the Commonwealth proved that his client murdered Hill. After the jury found Smith guilty, there was a sentencing hearing before they resumed deliberations. During that hearing, Sengel showed the jury nine separate conviction orders for Smith dating back to 1995. These convictions included robbery, receiving stolen property and bail violations. When he was charged with Hill’s murder, he was in jail in Pennsylvania, serving time for a conviction he received subsequent to Hill’s murder.
“Given the circumstances of the murder and the defendant’s history, I believe that this was an appropriate outcome,” Sengel said.