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'All we could think was why?' says family of Baltimore stabbing victim, who will be buried Saturday

Update (March 3, 2019): Baltimore Police on Sunday announced they had arrested Jacquelyn Smith’s husband and stepdaughter in her death. Read the latest here.

Jacquelyn Smith was supposed to travel to California this week with family to attend her son’s graduation from an information technology program with the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Instead, the family will gather Saturday in Rhode Island for her funeral.

Nearly two weeks after Smith was fatally stabbed in East Baltimore, police have not made an arrest. Her family remains in shock, struggling to comprehend why her life was taken.

Her husband, Keith Smith, said the couple had been out dancing to celebrate his daughter’s 28th birthday on Dec. 1 when, on their way home, they saw a woman asking for money. Jacquelyn Smith rolled down her car window to hand over some cash when her husband said a man approached the car, reached inside to try to take Smith’s purse and necklace before stabbing her. She later died at the hospital.

“I’m dealing with this one day at a time. That’s the only way I can deal with it,” Smith said Thursday.

He said police have not provided updates on the case.

Baltimore Police say the investigation is ongoing. Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle declined to provide additional details about the case at a news conference Tuesday to announce a new gun buyback program.

Jacquelyn Smith’s oldest sister, Yvonne Saab, said the family has been working to plan the funeral service and have yet to fully grieve. Saab said she last talked to her sister two days before she died. They had discussed their upcoming trip to California.

“We’re having a very difficult time,” Saab said in a phone interview from her home in New Jersey. “There are no words to describe how everyone is feeling. We’re traumatized. We’re trying to handle it the best way we can.”

Rosanna Holmes, Jacquelyn Smith’s first cousin who lives in Santa Clara, Calif., said news spread quickly to extended family. Many were unable to comprehend the violence.

“All we could think was why?” Holmes said.

As the oldest sister, Saab said she looked out for her “baby sister.”

“I always had the responsibility of watching over her,” she said.

She said Smith was an extremely generous, caring person. Saab also described her sister as a successful, independent woman who lived in different places, including Germany. Through each move, Smith worked as an engineer. At the time of her death, she was an electrical engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

“She was an intelligent, astounding, impressive woman,” Saab said. She loved to write poetry and was “very artistic.”

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Though she was successful, she never was boastful. “She was “just a really wholesome, kindhearted. Very unpretentious.”

Saab said her sister never had an enemy.

“She always got along well with everyone,” she said. “They speak about her generosity, and smile, and her warm heart.”

Saab said her sister was an excellent student who attended a prestigious high school in Providence, R.I. She went on to major in engineering at North Carolina A&T State University. She met her first husband there, and they had two sons together. He was in the Army, and the couple moved to different locations, including Germany.

Saab said she frequently visited her sister, and they traveled around Europe together.

Smith later moved to Maryland, where her two sons graduated from high school. The oldest, Kendall Hood, graduated from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, and her younger son, David, is a sophomore at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

“They’re doing as to be as expected, dealing with the tragic way her life was taken,” Saab said.

Saab said her sister was a devoted mother to her sons, and a caring and involved aunt to Saab’s children.

“She always made sure she was there. Always very, very supportive. Always sending them quotes to inspire,” she said.

Although the family is scattered, Saab said, they remain close, and her sister was always traveling to attend graduations, holidays and trips together.

Smith’s older brother, Marcel Trisvan, of Havre de Grace, said after his son was killed in Rhode Island and he was looking to relocate, his sister helped him make the move to Maryland. They remained close, getting together for family dinners of steamed crabs.

Trisvan said his wife reminded him recently how, “Whenever she came over, she always kissed both our boys on both their cheeks.”

Smith worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground’s Edgewood campus, and was employed by Huntington Ingalls Industries. She served as a contractor for the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, which provides biological and chemical defense equipment to the U.S. military.

At a memorial service for Smith in Churchville last week, Keith Smith recalled how he met his wife in 2013, at a birthday party of a mutual friend. He told mourners about how he was nervous about asking her to dance. But he got the courage, and they quickly fell in love. He proposed less than three months later on Christmas Eve.

“I like to say we danced our way to the altar,” he said at the service.

Trisvan said his sister’s death is especially upsetting because of the violent manner in which she was taken from them.

“It’s just truly unfortunate that somebody who lived life the way she did, who didn’t want to hurt anybody” was killed, he said. “She will be truly missed. It’s a black hole in all of our lives right now, with how things happened.”

Trisvan said that while funerals often help bring closure to families, Saturday will be difficult to endure. It will be a realization that she is truly gone, but her killer remains loose.

He said he remains hopeful.

“I do truly feel justice will prevail.”

A visitation will be held from the 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday at A.A. Mariani & Son Funeral Home, 200 Hawkins St., Providence, Rhode Island. A funeral mass will follow at 11 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Church, 244 Smith St., in Providence. A private burial will be held after.

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