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Man who raped, killed baby seeks clemency

Published: Thu, April 4, 2013 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Marc Kovac



There are pictures of Autumn Breeze Carter showing the smiling baby girl full of life and possibilities.

There are others that depict the bruised and lifeless 6-month-old’s body after her brutal rape and murder at the hands of a drunken Mansfield man nearly 15 years ago.

Steven T. Smith faces the death penalty for the heinous crime, and prosecutors and the victim’s mother urged the state parole board Tuesday to allow the lethal injection to be administered as scheduled.

“It’s hard to imagine a crime any more horrible than the one that is before the board here today,” said Richland County Prosecutor James Mayer Jr.

But legal counsel for Smith said he was too drunk to understand the consequences of his actions and meant only to rape the baby, not kill her. They argued before the panel that Smith should be allowed to live out his days in prison rather than receiving the ultimate punishment.

“This case is about as bad as it gets,” said Joseph Wilhelm, public-defender representing Smith. But “it is still not among the worst of the worst that calls for the death penalty. ... Steve did not intend to kill Autumn, and her death was the accidental consequence of Steve’s intended sexual assault.”

He added later, “If you can get past the bad facts of this case, then you can see that Autumn’s death was most likely a tragic accident.”

Smith, 46, is set to be executed May 1 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

The state parole board will offer its recommendation to the governor Wednesday. Gov. John Kasich will make the final decision on whether to commute the death sentence or allow Smith’s execution to take place as scheduled.

Smith was convicted in the September 1998 murder of Autumn after an evening of beer drinking.

According to documents, Smith brutally raped the 6-month-old for 10-30 minutes during the early morning hours, turning the volume of the television up loud enough to drown out the baby’s cries. He suffocated her in the process, then placed the body in bed with her mother.

Wilhelm told the parole board that Smith likely had a blood-alcohol content of five to seven times the legal limit the night of the crime and was unable to grasp the consequences of his actions.

Much of the argument for clemency Tuesday focused on intent. Under Ohio law, a capital sentence is allowed when there is an intent to murder, but public defenders said the evidence does not prove Smith meant to kill.

Additionally, the jury in the case was not given the option of the lesser rape offense, instead having to choose between the death penalty and acquittal, Wilhelm said.

Legal counsel for the defendant also argued that Smith was thrust into a life of alcohol abuse — growing up in a family with a history of alcoholism, drinking himself as a teen and reporting frequent blackouts.

But, counsel added, Smith also was good with children and did not have a history of abusing youngsters. They said Smith has been a well-behaved inmate who has assisted with community-service projects while behind bars, and he has expressed remorse for the crime.

“This crime still weighs heavily on Steve’s conscience,” said public defender Tyson Fleming. “Every night he has trouble going to sleep because he thinks about Autumn. He still doesn’t understand what made him do what he did. Steve should definitely be punished for his actions in this case, but he should not be executed.”

But prosecutors countered that Smith was coherent the night of the murder and tried to hide evidence in the case, dumping a diaper, beer cans and a shirt in an outdoor trash container.

Mayer described the horrific condition of the victim’s body — numerous bruises and cuts, the imprint of fabric on her forehead from being pushed into couch cushions during the rape, patches of the baby’s hair found on a couch and coffee table.

Prosecutors also said Mayer declined to get treatment for alcoholism and had a criminal history that included domestic violence. And they offered evidence that suggested Smith potentially abused Autumn earlier — a photograph of the baby girl with what appears to be a fabric imprint on her forehead weeks before the murder.

“Autumn Carter would have been 15 years old on Friday,” said Jill Cochran, appellate attorney in the Richland County prosecutor’s office. “She would be a freshman or sophomore in high school, preparing for prom perhaps, for summer break. ... She is not here today because of the defendant.”


1jfgiancola(177 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

I don't care how much remorse he has or how good of an inmate he is, he raped and killed an infant. He does not deserve to live.

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2michael1757(489 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

For him,I'm sure it really is pulling the drapes,because it's curtains.Turn out the lights. hahahahaha BYEEEEEEEEEEEEEE Good Riddance!!!!!

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31970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

I couldn't even read the story it is so horrible.

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4redeye1(5615 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Give him the needle ,then say we are sorry, we didn't mean to kill him.the POS!!!

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5turtlesoup(8 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

I raped her but didn't mean to kill her. What?!?! She was 6 (SIX) months old. She was helpless depending on adults to keep her safe. Drunk or not he wrong.

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6Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Get the needle ready, veins ready and send this devil to he@#, where he belongs.

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7steelwagon(284 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

“If you can get past the bad facts of this case, then you can see that Autumn’s death was most likely a tragic accident.”

WTF ?? strap this d-bag down on the table next to this baby killing pos is he truly believe this bastard deserves any mercy !!!!

I just wonder if that poor innocent baby was his child if he "could get past the bad facts of this case"
I've never heard a more stupid,insulting dumbass statement in my life !!!!!!

Of course we are talking about a lawyer here !!!

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8walter_sobchak(2672 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

This lawyer insults the intelligence of the most naive person. He calls it a "tragic accident" like the creep picked up some drunk skank bar-fly at 2:00 a.m. and things got out-of-hand. He only intended to rape the 6-month old child for 10-30 minutes but not kill her. This kind of heinous crime is what challenges my oposition to the death penalty.

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9captainpeewee(76 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

the need to cut his balls off and make him eat them, then hang him.

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10DSquared(1778 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Sadly, six months previous to this horrendous crime, it would have been perfectly legal and acceptable to terminate little Autumn's life. How sad. I pray for her and her loved ones left to deal with this.

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11papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

I look forward to may 1st.

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12JoeFromHubbard(1776 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

@ JS:

Good point.
What is wrong with that case where my tax dollars have supported the life of a sick rapist killer for over 20 years and counting?

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13jeepers(127 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Now "he" seeks clemency? For what he did? He didn't show any clemency for the baby. This criminal should be thanking society for the years he has lived since 1998 when he was convicted. The baby didn't get these years to live. Time to 'man up' Smith-you raped and killed a baby-you should be running to the injection room to finally put an end to your miserable negative life. Not surprised you have trouble sleeping-most of us will hae trouble sleeping just readiing about your crimes.

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