Jacquelyn Smith had been cautious with money all her life, recalled her older brother, Marcel Trisvan.
Yet upon marrying Keith Smith, the electrical engineer who always chose cars that “she knew she could get 20 years out of” became indulgent, Trisvan said.
She traded up to a Mercedes-Benz.
The couple purchased an Audi for Keith.
And they snapped up a 50-foot yacht.
“I’ve seen it. It was incredible,” Trisvan recalled.
Keith Tyrone Smith, 52, now stands accused — alongside Valeria Smith, 28, his grown daughter from a previous relationship — of murdering Jacquelyn on Dec. 1 and concocting a story about a panhandler and a knife-wielding man in Baltimore. Police say the two made a run for the Mexican border, and they were apprehended Sunday in Texas.
Documents and those knowledgeable about the couple indicate that Keith benefited financially from Jacquelyn during her life — and had sought to be the executor of her estate, which he said was worthless.
Trisvan called his sister, who worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground, “100 percent the breadwinner” in the relationship. He believed Keith, a truck driver, had pushed the lavish lifestyle. The two had married in 2014 in Havre de Grace.
He said her family still has the house in Aberdeen, which was in his sister’s name. Trisvan said police held the Audi and Keith Smith returned the Mercedes after her death.
Trisvan said he had long questioned Keith and Valeria Smith’s story about the circumstances of Jacquelyn Smith’s death.
Two weeks after Keith allegedly murdered Jacquelyn, the widower asked for the routine legal authority to manage her estate.
According to a petition filed with the Harford County register of wills, he claimed her estate was worthless. Her condo in Aberdeen was underwater by about $26,000. She may have had her own bank account, but he wasn’t sure.
Smith wrote in the document that the loan payoff on the house is $230,600.78. “No value in home,” he wrote.
A Zillow estimate on the house is $225,095.
Deeds recorded with the state indicate that Jacquelyn Smith took ownership of the house from her first husband on Dec. 27, 2006. On the same date she took out a $275,400 mortgage to refinance and payoff the outstanding $244,207 mortgage, state records show.
In the petition, Smith stated that he paid for the $10,000 funeral expenses. He states in the document that he searched for a will but could not find one.
In the petition, Smith wrote that he was qualified to administer the estate because he was the “spouse” and he “paid funeral expense.”
By signing the petition he also confirmed that he was “mentally competent” and “not a disqualified person because of feloniously and intentionally killing, conspiring to kill, or procuring the killing of the decedent.”
He then checked the box stating he had “not been convicted” of any “serious crime that reflects adversely on my honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness to perform the duties of a personal representative.”
But he was convicted of a serious crime. Smith was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Maryland after pleading guilty to robbery with a deadly weapon two decades ago. He served about six years for robbing a bank in Timonium and was paroled in 2007, said a spokesman for the state prison system.
The petition even allows applicants who have convictions on their records to state a good cause for why their crimes would not disqualify them from administering an estate. He left that section blank.
Now her two sons from her previous marriage have hired a law firm to investigate his claims.
The sons’ attorney declined to say whether they believe Jacquelyn’s estate was in fact worthless.
“We’re gathering our information,” said Edward Price, the attorney.
He declined to discuss their investigation.
In addition, it remains unknown if she had a life insurance policy. Any such policy would not be listed in the estate papers. That money would transfer directly to a beneficiary.