Leon Tyler Smith Sentenced to 39 Years for Murder

Today’s local news is concerning Norton man Leon Tyler Smith, who was sentenced last week by the Lee County Circuit Court to serve thirty nine years in the Virginia Penitentiary for the murder of a Pennington Gap man. The defendant was previously convicted of the charge in May of 2019. The Court imposed the sentence after a lengthy hearing which included several hours of evidence and argument from the Commonwealth and Defense.
During the hearing, Commonwealth’s Attorney H. Fuller Cridlin presented evidence demonstrating that the defendant traveled from Norton to Pennington Gap on August 28th, 2018, for the specific purpose of killing the victim, who was working in his yard at the time he was killed. The evidence included data collected from the defendant’s phone and local cell towers, as well as other surveillance videos, which showed his whereabouts in the hours and minutes leading up to the murder. The defendant shot the victim four times in the back and immediately fled the scene, traveling to another location to hide the murder weapon, which was later found by investigators, as well as the shirt he was wearing during the crime. Cridlin also presented evidence that the defendant consumed thirteen beers, marijuana, and methamphetamine before committing the crime.
According to Cridlin, the defendant’s motive was simply hatred of the victim: “The defendant’s sister was engaged to the victim and the families were estranged. The defendant made various allegations about the victim but all were contradicted by the victim’s fiancée. None of the allegations were ever mentioned by the defendant to investigators before his conviction. In multiple interviews, he repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder. Today he told a much different story.”
Cridlin commended all law enforcement officers who worked on the case, including Special Agents Josh Kite and Walt Parker with the Virginia State Police, and several officers with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. “Obtaining a first degree murder conviction is not easy, and it shouldn’t be,” stated Cridlin. “A case like this requires hundreds of hours of investigative work, reviewing evidence, and courtroom hearings.” Cridlin added, “We were pushing for a life sentence. A person capable of coldly hunting down and killing someone in broad daylight does not belong in our society.”

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