JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 28-year-old Jacksonville man has been arrested on a murder charge in the death of a 29-year-old woman whose body was found in a ditch on the Westside last Friday.
Kenny Conyers is accused of killing Shaquita Smith (pictured below).
Smith's sister and Conyers' girlfriend, 38-year-old Tamiko Smith, is charged as an accessory to murder after police said she helped dispose of her sister's body.
Shaquita Smith's body was found Friday afternoon in a ditch off Park City Drive, a few miles from her home, after she hadn't been seen or heard from since April 29. An out-of-town relative called police concerned for her well-being.
Police said Smith and the suspects were involved in an argument over their living arrangement, during which Conyers stunned Smith several times with a Taser, then stabbed her multiple times.
"The victim was then gagged, placed in the trunk of a car, and then discarded in the ditch where she was found," said Asst. Chief Chris Butler, of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Butler said Shaquita Smith moved to Jacksonville from Arkansas about nine months ago.
Conyers is being held in the Duval County jail without bail. Tamiko Smith's bail was set at $75,000. Police said she could face more charges.
Smith's family and friends said they're shocked by this development.
"We were pleading for whoever done this to come forward so the family can have closure, and all the time the person that done this was standing right next to us," family friend Reginald Dillon said.
The suspects were at a neighborhood vigil for Shaquita Smith on Sunday.
"She said she didn't want anything to do with it, she just wants justice for her sister," family friend Stephanie Wells said. "'I can't understand why someone would do this to my sister.' She said, 'Whoever did it, they didn't kill her here, they brought her and threw her in that ditch.' And I said, 'Why do you say that? How did you know that?'"
Wells said she and Dillon were the ones who eventually called police after she started noticing odd behavior by Conyers and Tamiko Smith.
"I had my suspicions when I first talked to her from the beginning," Wells said. "She was like, the detective, I don't understand why they keep investigating my house. It's not like there's blood in my house. I was wondering, why she would say that? I didn't ask her about blood. If you didn't have anything to hide, why did you say that?"
"It's like I cared more about Shaquita then her sister did," Wells added. "It's killing me, 'cause every time I think about it, I cry. Why would they do something like that? She was always happy, she was always smiling, and now her kids are never going to see their mom again, and the baby is just starting to walk."
Dillon said his daughter-in-law is watching the kids, and Tamiko Smith's two children are with him.
Shaquita Smith's aunt, Jacqui Gray spoke to Channel 4 over the phone from Atlanta Tuesday night.
"Just the details you all have been publishing the description of it--that's the pain, that's where the gut-wrenching pain comes from. Because she was a human being and she did not deserve for that to be her final resting place," said Gray. "Whether Tamiko actually did the act or not, she's equally responsible because she had more of a responsibility toward her sister than this stranger did."
Gray said one of the most baffling aspects about Smith's death is knowing how close the sisters were. They didn't grow up together, but Gray said they had become reacquainted and grew to love each other.
"They formed a bond when they met each other that was just out of this world to the point where Tamiko reached out to Shaquita and invited her to come live in Jacksonville," said Gray.
Gray said the family's concern now is honoring Shaquita's life and making sure her two little girls are taken care of. As far as her sisters involvement, they said all they want to know is why this happened.
"We're angry at Tamiko. We want answers from Tamiko. And we don't know if we can get those answers until the trial comes out," said Gray.
A Westside pastor is offering his church to Smith's family so they can hold a funeral for the mother of two.
A memorial service for Shaquita Smith will be held at Faith Temple Assembly of God at 11 a.m. May 17. It is open to the public.
Two accounts have been set up through Wells Fargo because Shaquita Smith did not have insurance. One account is for her funeral expenses, the other is for her children.
The Shaquita Smith Memorial Fund account No. is 528700507 7259090095. The Trinity Burton and Essence Smith Childcare Fund account No. is 528700507 7259090061.
Anyone can make a donation at any Wells Fargo bank.
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