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Reginald SMITH

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 1 - 3
Date of murders: November 29-December 25, 1994
Date of arrest: January 1995
Date of birth: 1969
Victims profile: Dorothy Cooper, 79 / Helen Stiles, 81 / Mae Pergolese, 79
Method of murder: Beating
Location: Miami, Miami-Dade County, Florida, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison on November 20, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 

Suspected Miami serial killer pleads guilty to 1994 murder of elderly woman

By David Ovalle - MiamiHerald.com

November 21, 2013

Suspected serial killer Reginald Smith, who had been awaiting trail for the vicious beating death of an elderly North Miami-Dade woman for a staggering 18 years, pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to serve life in prison.

Smith, 44, admitted to the 1994 killing of Dorothy Cooper, 79, as well as to the attempted murder and robbery of nature guide Virginia Hoffmann, 73, who was beaten so badly that she nearly died.

In exchange for the guilty pleas, prosecutors waived the death penalty.

“There’s no such thing as closure,” said Cooper’s daughter, Judy Cooper, 69, of Boston. “He has no remorse. This man has no conscience. He targeted the most vulnerable.”

Smith’s attorney, Jimmy Dellaferra, said: “The fact that he has taken responsibility for his crimes, and will be leaving prison in a body bag, is appropriate justice.”

Homicide detectives also suspect Smith in the murders of at least two other elderly women, but there was never enough evidence to charge him. As part of the plea deal, he also agreed Wednesday to speak to Miami and Miami-Dade detectives about his involvement in those cases.

Smith was first arrested in January 1995 regarding the Cooper and Hoffman beatings as well as the armed robbery of a hair salon. He was convicted in the robbery, for which he already was serving a life sentence.

The other cases lingered for nearly two decades, going through a parade of defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges.

“It should never have gone on for 19 years,” said Judy Cooper, who praised the latest prosecutors, Gary Winston and Lisa Jacobs, for their work to resolve the case.

The string of slayings, all of which began as home-invasion robberies, occurred in North Miami-Dade in November and December 1994. They prompted police to warn older women against opening their front doors to strangers.

Smith had just been released from state prison after serving 36 months of a 42-month sentence on a gun-possession conviction.

Cooper, a widow, was found beaten to death in the bedroom of her home just west of Miami Shores on Dec. 9, 1994. The crime was discovered when Cooper, a feisty, independent woman who had lived in her house since 1946, failed to respond to a senior citizens’ transport service van that picked her up every Friday.

The other victims: Helen Stiles, 81, who was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death in her Shorecrest house. The home had been ransacked with no signs of forced entry.

Smith’s suspected accomplice, Barbara Laidler, is now serving life in prison for that murder.

The third murder victim was 79-year-old Mae Pergolese. Her best friend found her beaten to death inside her home not far from Cooper’s home.

Authorities at the time said they believed Smith had been using crack cocaine. He boasted a lengthy criminal record for armed burglary, armed robbery and other violent crimes.

 
 

2nd Serial Killer Preys On Elderly Women In Dade

By Luisa Yanez and Nancy San Martin - SunSentinel.com

January 6, 1995

A second serial killer, this one stalking elderly women instead of prostitutes, may be on the loose in Dade County.

Police have been after one serial killer, a man who, since September, has strangled or asphyxiated five prostitutes he plucked from the network of hookers who work along the Tamiami Trail in west Dade.

Police, who have made no arrest, are now looking for another killer who is systematically preying on elderly women.

Since November, three widows - two 79-year-olds and an 81-year-old - who lived alone in the north end of the county have been savagely beaten to death. A fourth woman survived a similar attack and is recovering.

Police said they have evidence linking all four attacks.

"This is an extremely dangerous man," warned John Farrell, the chief of criminal investigations for Metro-Dade police. "We want to get him before he hurts someone else."

Unlike the Tamiami killer, who police have failed to catch, investigators think they have a strong lead on a suspect in the killings of the elderly women.

The suspect: Three-time loser and ex-con Reginald Smith, 6 feet tall and 175 pounds, is described as an armed, dangerous crack-cocaine abuser with a history of violence in prison. Smith, 26, was released from prison in August after serving three years of a 42-month sentence.

Police want to question Smith about the three murders and the attempted murder of Doris Hoffman, 73, of North Miami. Hoffman survived her beating.

Detectives have arrested a teen-age girl they said was an accomplice of Smith, and they suspect other accomplices may have been involved in the crimes.

Smith should not be hard to recognize, police said, because he has two tattoos on his face - one on his right cheek with the word "Red" spelled backwards, and a teardrop etched into his left cheek. On Thursday, police warned women in north Dade not to open their doors to strangers. In the neighborhoods where the slayings occurred, elderly residents are taking that advice to heart.

Eleanor Dukas, a good friend of one of the victims, went as far as improving her alarm system on Thursday.

"All the widows are a little scared," Dukas said. "I never let anybody in that I don't recognize. But now, I'm even more careful."

Joe Cuzan, who lives next door to one of the victims, said the murder has brought fear into the once-tranquil community. "The entire neighborhood is in a state of alarm," he said.

Police said the killer may be using a ruse to get victims to open their doors, and is continuing his crime spree because of his crack cocaine habit. On Tuesday, Smith was identified by witnesses and detectives as the man who walked into a barber shop in northeast Dade and robbed the owner and patrons of several thousand dollars at knifepoint. No one was hurt.

Police said the killer's first victim was Helen Stiles, 81, who was found on Nov. 29 in the kitchen of her home in the 900 block of Northeast 82nd Street. She was stabbed and beaten.

Next was Dorothy Cooper, 79, found beaten to death in her bedroom on Dec. 9. She lived in the 10700 block of Northwest Fifth Avenue.

On Christmas Day, the last victim, Mae Pergolese, 79, was found beaten to death in her home in the 200 block of Northwest 119th Street.

A break in the case, and the possibility that all three murders are connected, came with the Dec. 22 attack on Hoffman, who survived.

She told police of the ploy the killer used to get into her home. Hoffman said a teen-age girl had knocked on her door asking to use the telephone. As she handed the girl a portable phone, someone hit Hoffman on the head.

Cuzan, whose father discovered the body of Cooper, said his longtime neighbor was not in the habit of opening doors to strangers.

"She was real sassy, a tough old lady," said Cuzan, 28, who moved next to Cooper 18 years ago. "We were like best friends, but she would never invite anybody into her home. She was one of the oldiest goldies left," he said.

Dukas said of Pergolese: "I thought she had the safest house in the neighborhood. She had bars inside the windows and a bolt lock on the front door. There is no way anyone could get in, unless she let them."

 
 


Reginald Smith