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COURT 2 convicted of abduction and murder



Published: Fri, February 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



They face mandatory life sentences.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Two men were convicted Thursday of kidnapping a family of three, including a toddler, and driving them around in a plot to gather money before shooting the man to death in front of his daughter.

An Allegheny County jury deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours before finding Jamal Johnson, 29, of Wilkinsburg, guilty of first-degree murder and Joseph Smith, 31, of Pittsburgh, guilty of second-degree murder for the April 30, 2003, shooting of David Williams in the suburb of Wilkinsburg.

Johnson and Smith were also convicted of kidnapping, robbery, conspiracy and child endangerment for abducting Williams' fiancee, Lakeenah Fitts, 24, and their 15-month old daughter, Justice, from their Wilkinsburg home.

Both men face mandatory life sentences.

Relief

"I finally did something that he can really be proud of, and it was all for David," said Fitts, who testified against the men. "I'm happy. I can't really express it, me and my daughter can try to move on as much as we can now."

Police have said Johnson, Smith and two other men burst into the couple's home in Wilkinsburg while they were still in bed and demanded that Williams give them $150,000.

There was little money in the home, but Williams convinced the men he could round up cash from friends. The men forced Williams, Fitts and Justice into the family van at gunpoint and drove them around Pittsburgh to try to collect money from friends and relatives, police said.

The family eventually returned to Wilkinsburg, where Fitts went to a neighbor's house asking for money.

While she was talking to her friend, Williams was shot and killed inside the van just feet away from his home, police said. The toddler, now 3 years old, was found unharmed in Williams' lap.

Fitts testified that although the men wore masks to hide their faces, she recognized Smith because he removed his mask while opening the gate to the family's driveway. She identified Johnson from photographs of known convicts police showed her.

Police said they also linked Smith to the crime through a sport utility vehicle that witnesses spotted leaving the shooting and was later found burned out in a Pittsburgh garage.

During trial, Smith's girlfriend testified that she was with him at her apartment when the abduction happened. Public defender Kathleen Cribbins maintained that Johnson was arrested only because he was Smith's friend.

Cribbins did not immediately return a phone call for comment after business hours on Thursday. A phone number for Smith's attorney, W. Christopher Conrad, could not be located Thursday night.




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