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Man Pleads Guilty in Rape, Ice-Chest Slaying of Girl

December 27, 1985|Associated Press

SAN BERNARDINO — Brian Keith Smith pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually molesting and killing a 10-year-old girl by putting her into an ice chest.

Smith, 24, also pleaded guilty to kidnaping Melissa Wakefield, who vanished after a Fourth of July party.

When sentenced Jan. 29 in Superior Court here, Smith will face a minimum 33 years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole, Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Maxwell said.

"The primary reason we accepted the plea is that he will be in prison for the rest of his life," Maxwell said.

Investigators played a tape-recorded confession during a preliminary hearing in which Smith told of taking the girl from the party after she became inebriated. Smith told detectives the little girl begged to be taken home before he sexually assaulted her. He also told of burying her in the ice chest in the desert, about 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Authorities said the girl died of suffocation and heat exhaustion in the ice chest.

Melissa's disappearance sparked a six-day search by sheriff's investigators that ended when Smith confessed and directed them to the body.

"He is technically eligible for parole in 33 years, but I do not expect that he will receive parole for the minimum," Maxwell said. "We expect to urge the parole board that he be kept in prison for the rest of his life."

Smith indicated to police that he felt some remorse for the girl's slaying, Maxwell said. The plea also allowed him to retain eligibility for eventual parole, Maxwell said.

"This obviates the need for an expensive trial," Maxwell said. "We are satisfied."

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