David Smith


David Smith

A.K.A.: "Little Britches"

Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Angered because his girlfriend ended their relationship
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: 1980
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1948
Victims profile: His girlfriend Becky Church, 17; her daughter Amanda Church, 18 months; her mother, Mary Thompson, 48, and her sister, Betty Maynard, 27
Method of murder: Shooting (hunting rifle)
Location: Pike County, Kentucky, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in 1983

This killer executed his teenage girlfriend, his girlfriend's infant daughter, her mother and sister with a gun in Pike County in 1980. The killer confessed at the scene of the quadruple execution.


Mary Thompson, 48
Betty Maynard 27
Becky Church, 17
Amanda Church, 18 months

David Smith

June 2000

A federal judge blocked the planned execution of murderer David "Little Britches" Smith, who was scheduled to die Tuesday in Kentucky's electric chair. The ruling came just 3 days after U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood had refused to grant Smith a stay so his lawyers would have more time to file a federal appeal in the case. But Smith's lawyer rushed to file a 323-page appeal with the court yesterday, and Hood stayed the execution until courts have time to consider the issues it raises. Smith is probably years away from execution.

Smith, 52, was convicted in 1983 of the Pike County murders of his teen-age girlfriend, her daughter, the girlfriend's mother and the girlfriend's sister. Smith, who his lawyers contend was under the influence of drugs when the murders took place, has apologized for the killings.

Smith shot and killed his girlfriend's mother, Mary Thompson, 48, and sister, Betty Maynard, 27, with a hunting rifle after a falling out with the girlfriend. While emergency medical workers were treating those victims, Smith returned and shot his 17-year-old girlfriend, Becky Church. One bullet left her body and struck her 18-month-old daughter, Amanda Church, killing her.

Although Smith has not yet exhausted his appeals, Attorney General Ben Chandler asked Gov. Paul Patton to sign a death warrant in early May -- less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear one of Smith's earlier appeals. Patton signed the death warrant May 11. Smith was scheduled to die at 7 a.m. Tuesday in the death chamber of the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville.

Corey Bellamy, a spokesman for Chandler, said the attorney general sought the death warrant to keep the appeals process from stalling while waiting for Smith to file his next appeal. Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto, Smith's lawyer with the state Department of Public Advocacy, scrambled yesterday to assemble the appeal and get it filed in U.S. District Court in Frankfort, in hopes of delaying the execution until federal courts have an opportunity to review the case. That filing of the appeal came perilously close to the execution for Smith. Officials at Eddyville had already begun preparing for the execution. The Kentucky Press Association began the process of deciding what newspaper reporters would witness the execution.

Death-penalty appeals are conducted in 3 levels, with 3 steps at each level. Smith has been turned down in the 1st 2 levels and is at the 1st step of the 3rd and final level. Since taking office in 1996, it has been Chandler's policy to seek death warrants as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the condemned at each level. Chandler has said that policy keeps the process moving and doesn't allow defense lawyers to delay. Although governors in the past had generally waited 90 days for defense lawyers to perfect their appeals, Patton has signed death warrants quickly. DiLoreto had asked Hood to stay the execution while she and attorney Steve Pence of Louisville completed the appeal.

The 1996 federal anti-terrorism bill, which was designed to streamline death-penalty appeals, allows federal appeals be filed within one year of state appeals being exhausted. The Department of Public Advocacy has taken that to mean death-row inmates should receive an automatic 12-month stay of execution while their lawyers work on appeals. But the attorney general's office has contended that provision means only that defense lawyers must file such an appeal within a year. Hood sided with the attorney general in the case and refused earlier this week to stay Smith's execution. A Maynard family member in Pike County declined on behalf of the victims' family to comment yesterday. There are still appeals pending and this execution is not likely to take place on this date.