Clay King Smith
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Clay King Smith (July 25, 1970 – May 8, 2001) was executed by the State of Arkansas for the March 25, 1998 murders of Misty Erwin (age 20), Shelley Sorg (24), Sean Sorg (5), Taylor Sorg (3), and Samantha Rhodes (12) at his home near Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Smith’s girlfriend, Misty Erwin, reported that Smith battered her and requested police assistance to move out of the house. However, when police arrived, she withdrew her complaint and decided to stay with Smith. Two days later her body was found in the house along with a cousin, two small children, and a babysitter. All were shot to death with a rifle.
Smith was arrested the day after the bodies were discovered. His capture followed a shootout with authorities near Star City in Lincoln County, Arkansas. Smith fled into a wooded area when police tracked him down to a house belonging to a local hunting club. Smith held police at bay for an hour with a rifle, which later proved to be the murder weapon. He was shot in an arm after he refused to put down the rifle. During the stand-off, he yelled at the police, "I sent three of them to Heaven; I don't know where the other two went." Smith made several admissions during the stand-off, until he was shot in the arm by police. He claimed that the murders were drug-induced.
Smith quickly waived all rights to appeal his sentence. A judge ruled in November 1999 that Smith was competent enough to waive his appeal rights. At the hearing, Smith told the court he was sorry for the pain he had caused and added, "I don't want to do any more harm."
Jefferson County Circuit Judge H.A. Taylor said Smith had knowingly waived his appeal and understood the implications. The Arkansas Supreme Court, in a routine review of death-row cases, affirmed Smith's convictions. The justices allow inmates to drop their appeals if they demonstrate that they know what might happen. Smith said he made the decision because he didn't want to put his family or the victims' families through a lengthy appeal process. Smith was the third consecutive death row inmate to waive at least part of his appeal rights.
Clay King Smith spent his final days writing letters. Smith wrote letters to the families of each of his victims asking for forgiveness and telling them he would waive his right to appeal unless they asked him to do otherwise. No one did.
In a letter dated April 22, Smith told Misty Erwin's father, Randy, her mother Lula, and her three sisters, Tabitha, Margo and Frances, that he was waiving his right to appeals so that they could move on with their lives. "You don't need to keep reliving what happened over and over and that's what appeals would do," Smith wrote. "If you all want me to appeal you should let me know and I will. Otherwise, I'm going home to be with Jesus. I can hardly wait. I believe I am going to see Misty there..."
In a brief final statement, while strapped to a gurney at the Cummins Correctional Unit, he spoke to four family members of his victims as they watched on a closed circuit television. "I'd like to say I'm sorry about what I did to the victims' families. I hope your hearts heal. I love my family. I love my family."
Smith was the 24th person executed by the State of Arkansas since Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), after new capital punishment laws were passed in Arkansas that came into force on March 23, 1973.
In the media
- The story of the murders as told through the eyes of the Smith's brother, police officer Walt Chavis, was discussed on "The Cop and the Killer" of Evil Lives Here. The episode premiered in February 2018.