Update, Oct. 16: The autopsy of 11-month-old Jericho Smith determined the baby died of multiple gunshot wounds, stab wounds and blunt force injuries, East Baton Rouge Coroner Beau Clark said on Monday. Read the latest here.
ZACHARY — A quiet Zachary subdivision filled with tidy houses and manicured lawns — a neighborhood where residents said they often allow their young children to play outside without fear — was rocked this weekend with the news that one of their neighbors is accused of stabbing and killing his 11-month-old baby.
Fabian Smith, 33, was arrested Saturday on one count each of first-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to a juvenile in the death of Jericho Smith, whom police found with stab wounds across the forehead and signs of blunt force trauma to the back of the head, Zachary Police Chief David McDavid said during a news conference Sunday. The child was pronounced dead at the scene.
McDavid said police have not yet determined a motive, but investigators found a knife and a firearm inside the house in the 3400 block of Hancock Street. He said autopsy results will reveal whether the firearm was also used.
Smith was the only adult at the home at the time of the incident — the mother also lives there and returned home later that day — though at least two other children, ages 5 and 9, were temporarily locked outside the house, McDavid said. One of the children ran next door and alerted a neighbor that something was wrong.
The neighbor then found Jericho unresponsive inside a bedroom. McDavid said Smith told the neighbor: “I done messed up — call 911.”
McDavid described the incident as “senseless brutality toward a little child of God” and said witnessing the aftermath “broke the hearts” of first responders and law enforcement officials. “As an investigator, you go home and cry,” he said.
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McDavid said the investigation remains ongoing and could not confirm whether any drugs or other illegal substances could have been involved.
Other Hancock Street residents said the incident is sickening and shocking, especially for their neighborhood of retirees and families with young children.
Brent and Robyn Waldon live next door to the Smith family and said their young children often played together. They said the Smiths moved into the neighborhood a few months ago, renting the Hancock Street home, which previously stood vacant following the August 2016 floods.
Brent Waldon said the Smiths' 9-year-old son came to their house after the attack.
Their nephew, 21, was sitting outside and encountered the boy first. "He said his dad told him to go get the neighbors," said Waldon, who was not at home at the time but reviewed video of the interaction captured on his surveillance system.
Their nephew then went over to the house, entering through an unlocked door and discovering the baby in a pool of blood on the bedroom floor before calling 911, Waldon said.
Robyn Waldon, who was at home during the incident, said Smith seemed surprisingly unaffected and sat outside smoking a cigarette while investigators searched his house. His 5-year-old daughter screamed and cried for about an hour afterward, Robyn Waldon said.
“This is just a nightmare,” she said. “I’ve held that baby before and our 7-year-old would go over and play there a lot. ... I just can’t believe something like this would happen so close — and we let our kid go inside their house. Holy cow.”
They said the Smith family had four young children living with them, including Jericho, and Smith himself has eight children from current and former relationships. He worked as a truck driver, the Waldons said.
Emily Branton, who lives across the street with her fiance and their three children, said she was at the LSU game when police arrived Saturday afternoon and doesn’t know the Smith family personally, but has seen their children outside playing fairly regularly.
“I’ve always felt safe here, and I think this was an isolated thing ... it’s really sad more than anything,” she said. “I’m not so much scared, just sick that this happened at all.”