Jury recommends death for teacher's killer
by Rachael Brown
Minutes after a jury recommended Wednesday that Nicholas Smith be executed for the murder of her 29-year-old son, Frances Curry walked outside a courtroom at the Calhoun County Courthouse, pointed her finger to the sky and said, “Happy birthday, Kevin.”

The jury’s decision, on an 11-1 margin, fell on the exact date when Curry first held her son 32 years ago.

On July 2, the jury of nine women and three men found Smith, 24, guilty of kidnapping, robbing and murdering Wellborn Elementary School teacher Kevin Thompson in April 2011.

Jurors began their deliberation Tuesday afternoon and completed it Wednesday morning at 9. While Calhoun County Circuit Judge Brian Howell read the jury’s recommendation for execution, several jurors began to cry.

“This is a highly emotional case. You can tell it was emotional on the jury. They put a lot of thought into this and they spent three weeks of their lives with us,” Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh said outside the courtroom.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony that two other men, Tyrone Thompson and Jovon Gaston, were also involved in the kidnapping, robbery and killing, an incident that began at Kevin Thompson’s Jacksonville apartment on April 20, 2011. Prosecutors say Kevin Thompson was kidnapped, driven to several ATMs in Jacksonville and Anniston and robbed of $400 at gunpoint. The third-grade teacher was later duct-taped and driven to Cherokee County, where he was stabbed to death and left alongside U.S. 278. Thompson’s body was found nearly two days after his mother reported him missing.

Earlier in the trial, jurors watched video footage of a police interview in which Smith confesses to slitting Kevin Thompson’s throat.

McVeigh said he expects to begin Tyrone Thompson’s trial in six months and Gaston’s afterward.

“I hope by this time next year we have all three cases completed,” he said.

Smith will be sentenced by Howell on Sept. 3, after the court completes a sentencing investigation. The investigation, McVeigh said, will include a review of evidence presented during the trial, an interview with Smith and a review of the defendant’s criminal history.

For the last three weeks, Frances and Rena Curry and close friends of Kevin Thompson wore his neckties to the courtroom in memory of the teacher. Today, Frances Curry wore a white shirt with the letter K embroidered close to her heart.

“This is a victory, but it’s also a hollow victory. Lives have been torn apart. People are in tears ... my life will never be the same,” Curry said.

Thompson’s mother thanked her friends, family and the DA’s office for their support.

The last two days of the nine-day trial involved background on Smith’s abusive childhood, including testimony from Smith’s family, counselors and local child abuse investigators. Smith’s mother, Chrisandra Smith, testified Monday about her addiction to drugs and alcohol. Jurors also heard testimony from counselors and psychologists who said Smith was sexually abused by a close family member when the defendant was 4 years old.

Arleen Pollard, Smith’s paternal aunt, waited for the jury’s decision and spoke briefly to her nephew before he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

“I know you can’t take things back, if I could take it back I would have taken him as a teen when his mother asked me to,” Pollard said.

Pollard said Smith’s mother was “too distraught” to hear the jury’s decision Wednesday morning.

Frances Curry said she’s prayed for Smith’s family and the families of the accused.

“I wish them the best,” Curry said, “But I still want justice for Kevin.”

Before the jurors left the courtroom today, Curry hugged each one, whispering, “Thank you. God bless you.”

Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.

© 2013