ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — It’s been 10 years since former Machesney Park resident Todd Smith killed his estranged wife and dumped her body in the Rock River.
Since Smith was sentenced to nearly 60 years in prison 2017, the now 55-year-old has been busy attempting to get his conviction overturned.
Smith was convicted of first-degree murder and concealing a homicidal death on Jan. 27, 2017 and was sentenced to a total of 59 years the following April.
Just weeks after a jury found him guilty of bludgeoning Katrina Smith to death with a softball bat, Smith, through Assistant Public Defender Margie O’Connor, asked the court to vacate the conviction.
O’Connor argued that Judge Fernando Engelsma erred in his decision to keep the trial in Winnebago County, claiming because the death of Katrina Smith garnered extensive public attention, the jury couldn’t have been impartial.
“The pre-trial publicity and trial publicity was of such magnitude that the defendant was unable to receive a fair trial in this county,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor claimed that some of the state’s witnesses should not have been permitted to testify, police failed to investigate another potential suspect, and that prosecutors misled the jury.
Engelsma denied the motion on April 4, 2017.
Smith filed an appeal a month later, asking the Illinois Appellate Court to overturn Engelsma’s ruling.
On Dec. 30, 2020, the higher court affirmed the murder conviction.
There was no movement in Smith’s case until mid-2021, when on Aug. 16, he filed a handwritten, pro se brief, asking Engelsma, who retired at the end of 2017, for more time to prepare a petition for post-conviction relief.
Smith claims he needed time beyond the Aug. 18, 2021 filing deadline because he was unable to research his case. He added that conditions inside Stateville Correctional Center played a role in the inability to get his paperwork in line.
“Due to numerous shakedowns my transcripts were all out of order to try to make since (sic) of it,” Smith said in the motion. “The law clerk I have been working with can not make sense out of it. I need more time.”
No action has been taken since the filing.
Katrina Smith reported missing
On Oct. 23, 2012, Todd Smith called police and reported his 30-year-old wife Katrina missing. He said he learned earlier that she not only did she miss a scheduled job interview, she never showed up at Camryn Company, where she worked in human resources, at all that day.
Smith told investigators that on Oct. 22, Katrina left their Tetterhall Lane home to go shopping and never returned.
Their marriage was a happy one, Smith said. Katrina was a loving wife and stepmother and had no known reason for just leaving without telling someone.
Katrina Smith’s car was found on Oct. 23, near Obispo Road and Ventura Boulevard in Machesney Park, leading investigators to suspect things weren’t adding up.
Her wallet was found in south Rockford while police learned from other sources Katrina had not been house sitting at all. She had moved out of the couple’s home and had an appointment with a divorce attorney.
Todd Smith, meanwhile, took part in several citywide searches for his wife, giving teary media interviews whenever he could, begging Katrina to contact family.
As Smith became less involved with subsequent efforts to locate Katrina, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search warrant at his Machesney Park home, where they uncovered evidence that Katrina did not leave the house alive.
Former Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross, then chief of the office’s Criminal Bureau, was the lead prosecutor when Todd Smith stood trial in 2017.
Hite Ross and Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Brun showed the jury that on the night of Oct. 22, 2012, Katrina had returned to Tetterhall Lane to do laundry.
Prosecutors believe Katrina had already said she wanted out of the marriage, but a crestfallen Todd Smith wouldn’t accept it.
That night, Hite Ross told the jury, Todd Smith grabbed a Louisville Slugger softball bat and struck Katrina multiple times, including several blows to the head.
Prosecutors believe Smith placed Katrina’s body in her car, drove it to the Ventura Boulevard area and dumped it in the river. He then returned to the house on foot and cleaned up the scene, leaving the car for police to find the next day.
Katrina Smith’s body was found three weeks later, floating in the Rock River near Bryon. Investigators said fast currents caused by heavy rains allowed it to clear the Fordam Dam in downtown Rockford and make it nearly 30 miles downstream before getting hung up on a log.
The jury also learned through witness testimony and forensic evidence that for months before Katrina was killed, Smith had been using a tracking device to follow her car and had stalked her at Camryn Company.
Todd Smith, a former investment broker, is also accused of helping a California man bilk elderly clients out of nearly $1 million between 2009 and 2012.
Proceedings in Smith’s portion of the federal fraud case, however, have been put on hold until his appeals in the murder case are wrapped up. His co-defendant, Tony Oliver, was sentenced in 2016 to 51 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $983,000 in restitution.
Smith is currently representing himself in his bid to overturn his murder conviction.