Woman jailed for shooting her rapist dead after he threatened to kill her

Brittany Smith’s indictment for the murder of her rapist in Alabama sparked national headlines, and on Friday she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years, of which she will serve seven months

Harriet Alexander
Saturday 10 October 2020 16:25
Woman jailed for shooting her rapist dead after he threatened to kill her
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An Alabama woman who shot dead her rapist as he was strangling her brother has pleaded guilty to murder.

Brittany Smith, 32, was attacked by an acquaintance, Todd Smith – no relation – in January 2018.

Her brother Chris McCallie found out about the exceptionally violent attack several hours later, and turned up at the house to order that Todd leave. 

A confrontation ensued, and Todd, 38, with a long history of domestic violence and having taken a combination of Xanax, amphetamines, alcohol, and meth, put McCallie in a headlock, strangling him and threatening to kill them both.

Brittany grabbed a gun and yelled at Todd to stop, then shot him.

“Someone just got shot at 211 Sharon Drive,” Brittany told the operator, according to an account in The New Yorker

“He – he tried to kill me and…. Just have an ambulance come, please, because I don’t want this man to die.” 

Brittany was indicted on murder charges by a grand jury in March 2018, and, with a series of public defendants, fought to have them dismissed under Stand Your Ground self-defence laws.

During the hearing, which took place at Jackson County Courthouse in Scottsboro, Alabama, sexual assault nurse Jeanine Suermann, who examined Brittany after the alleged rape, testified that the woman had been bitten, strangled, and assaulted. 

According to The New Yorker, Todd had been arrested eighty times, at least six times for domestic violence.

Judge Jenifer Holt denied her request, arguing that Brittany did not need to use lethal force to end the altercation, and that her brother was also an aggressor because he brought a weapon to the home and started the confrontation.

On Friday Brittany pleaded guilty to murder, a month before her trial was due to start. If she had been convicted she faced life in prison.

Holt sentenced her to 20 years, but she will only serve seven months in prison.

Holt ordered the sentence split for her to serve 18 months in the Jackson County Jail and 18 months on house arrest, followed by probation. Because she will receive credit for the time she spent in jail awaiting trial, Brittany will be released to house arrest in about seven months, according to her lawyer.

Brittany’s case made national headlines and sparked a fierce debate about women’s rights in the state of Alabama.

It also shone a spotlight on the poverty and drug abuse rampant in the deprived corner of northeastern Alabama and southern Tennessee.

Todd bred pitbulls from his home in Jasper, Tennessee – 20 miles from Brittany’s home in Stevenson, Alabama.

Brittany had visited Todd’s home the day before, and taken home a puppy which she named Athena, according to The New Yorker, which published a detailed account of the case earlier this year.

Brittany, a mother of four, had lost care of her children in 2013 while battling drugs but had been clean for an extended period and had just got a new job at a flooring company, meaning she could pay her rent and, she hoped, get her children back.

“I was just uplifted,” she told the magazine. “Like, everything is going right. I have a job now, I’m going to get my babies back, and I have a home.”

On the night of 15 January 2018, in the snow, Todd rang Brittany and said that he was stranded in town, and had nowhere else to go, so asked to stay. He failed to mention that his father had kicked him out of the house after a violent altercation that ended with Todd’s arrest.

Brittany was reluctant to help Todd, she told the magazine, because he had expressed a romantic interest in her which she rejected.

But she felt sorry for him, and so agreed he could sleep on the couch.

At the house Brittany told him about her new job, and her hopes for the future. Todd revealed he was still on drugs.

Brittany said he needed to get “his priorities together”, which enraged Todd, who screamed and headbutted her.

She ran into the bedroom to get away, but Todd smashed down the door and choked her until she passed out, then raped her, his hands around her neck.

Brittany told the magazine she begged with him to stop, pleading: “We’re friends.” 

Her voice, with his hands round her neck, came out squeaky and he mockingly replied: “We’re friends.”

“Don’t say a f***ing word or I’ll kill you,” he said, according to Brittany.

After the attack, he said that if she told anyone he’d kill her and her family.

He wanted cigarettes, and so Brittany said she would call someone to collect them as she did not have a car. Her brother arrived and the trio went to the petrol station, where Brittany slipped the cashier, a friend, a note with Todd’s name.

When her brother dropped Brittany and Todd back at the house, Brittany whispered to her brother to go and speak to the cashier.

McCallie did, and returned to the house with a gun.

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