A sentence of life without parole for the man who stabbed 49-year-old Anaconda resident Victoria Lynn Smith to death was preceded by emotional testimony from the victim's family members Thursday afternoon.
During a sentencing hearing for David Richmond, 36, of Anaconda, gasps and sobs could be heard throughout the courtroom as District Judge Ray Dayton sentenced the 36-year-old to life without the possibility of parole.
Richmond will serve his time with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. A mental-health evaluation performed by an official with the Montana State Hospital has diagnosed Richmond with schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness similar to schizophrenia.
Earlier this year, Richmond plead guilty to stabbing Smith, his ex-girlfriend. There was no plea agreement.
According to the affidavit for the case, Smith was found dead Dec. 28, 2016, in her residence at the Hearthstone Apartments, 400 Oak St., with a fatal knife slash across her neck.
During a search of the residence, law enforcement uncovered a butcher knife that appeared to have blood on it along with several syringes and spoons which they believed to be drug paraphernalia.
Court documents state that video surveillance from the Hearthstone Apartments show that Richmond was the last known person to be with Smith other than her daughter, Caitlyn Smith. Video surveillance also showed Richmond pacing around the lobby of the apartment complex around 1:45 a.m. the same day her body was discovered.
Caitlyn Smith told detectives that she last saw her mother around 10:15 p.m. the night before Smith’s body was discovered and that Smith and Richmond had been arguing.
Dr. Virginia Hill, a staff psychiatrist with the Montana State Hospital who administered a mental-health evaluation after Richmond’s arrest, said Thursday she believes Richmond has schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness whose symptoms including hallucinations and delusional beliefs.
Hill said that Richmond was a known drug and alcohol abuser, noting that both substances can exacerbate the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.
During a defense cross-examination Thursday, Hill said that Richmond claimed to hear voices.
She also said that the 36-year-old claimed he was on TV even when he was not, that he believed hidden cameras followed him around, and that the government and other entities inserted a chip in his brain, among other delusional statements.
In addition, a report Hill wrote noted that Richmond claimed to have used meth and alcohol a few days before the murder and that on the day of the murder he heard voices coming from the ceiling of Smith’s apartment.
Prompted by questioning from county attorney Ben Krakowka, Hill said that despite his mental illness, Richmond was not disabled to the point that he didn’t know where he was or who he was during his crimes.
“I believe there is sufficient data that he could act with knowledge and purpose,” said Hill.
Richmond was also sentenced Thursday for felony theft along with misdemeanor partner or family-member assault, driving with a revoked license, and disorderly conduct.
Those charges, to which he also pled guilty, stemmed from a November 2016 incident in which Hill was accused of assaulting a different girlfriend whom he believed was trying to poison him.
During Thursday’s sentencing, Richmond sat mostly motionless with little expression, even when being confronted by several members of Smith’s family who read statements or had statements read on their behalf.
Faith Anderson, Smith’s cousin and also the service coordinator for Hearthstone Apartments, described discovering Smith dead inside her apartment.
“I’ll never get those pictures out of my head,” Anderson said.
Meanwhile, a poignant moment came when Jewely Agan, Smith’s daughter, took the stand. Agan spoke softly at first, causing the judge to have to ask her to repeat and spell her name several times.
Agan said that her mother had loved the now-convicted murderer and described having to constantly relive her mother’s death through Facebook notifications that showcase posts from the past, when Richmond was dating her mother.
“Every day (our family) would tell her to get rid of you because you’re evil and you’re full of hate,” Agan said. “You had no respect whatsoever for my mom. You accused her of cheating on you, you made her life miserable for years, and then you finally ended her life."
“I had a lot to say to you, and I am so grateful that you’re looking at me right now,” she continued. “I pray every night and pray for the power to forgive you.”
Judge Dayton, meanwhile, said he believed in mercy and realized that Richmond has a severe mental illness but that life without parole was an appropriate sentence given the violence of his crime.
“You’re just too dangerous to be in the community,” the judge said.
Richmond spoke briefly at the hearing, stating that he was “sorry for everything that’s happened.”
Richmond was also sentenced Thursday to more than 20 additional years at the Department of Public Health for the charges related to the November 2016 incident and for a weapon enhancement for the deliberate homicide charge. Those years will be served concurrently with the life sentence.