ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The murder of Katrina Smith in Rockford in 2012, by her husband, Todd Smith, is the subject of a new 20/20 special, “Deadly Vows,” which airs Friday, October 20th, on ABC and will stream on Hulu.
John Berg, now retired from Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, was the lead detective on the case.
“It was such a complex case and it had so many twists and turns,” he said. “This was a very extreme case. It lasted weeks and months. But, as I remember, she was originally listed as a missing person.”
Katrina Smith disappearance
On Oct. 23, 2012, Todd Smith, a local insurance and investment broker, called the police and reported his 30-year-old wife Katrina missing.
Smith told investigators that on Oct. 22, Katrina left their Tetterhall Lane home to go shopping and never returned.
Berg said Smith appeared to be a grieving husband, coordinating search parties as community members came to help. He made tearful pleas for her safe return to news outlets.
“I never had a case where somebody was out in the public eye like that, so blatantly just lying through their teeth and to the cameras, and to the community, and to the police. It was brazen and it was amazing that he was able to do it, with a straight face,” Berg recalled.
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.
“The interesting part of this investigation, for me, was dealing with Todd from day one when we got involved and having the suspicion that Todd might be involved in this. And it wasn’t till her body was found that it turned into a murder investigation,” Berg said.
A hidden affair and a jealous husband
Police learned that Katrina had moved out of the couple’s home two weeks prior and had an appointment with a divorce attorney.
Gabriel, who had a prior arrest for domestic battery, never became a suspect in the case — he had an alibi for the night of the murder, police said — although Smith’s defense team tried to pin it on him.
However, prosecutors later found evidence of GPS tracking software on Smith’s laptop, and said he had been tracking Katrina’s movements for months and knew of her relationship with Gabriel. Police found digital copies of a flyer that had been distributed at Gabriel’s workplace, seeking to publicly shame him.
Prosecutors ultimately said that, on the night of the 22nd, Smith left her Roscoe condominium and went to the Tetterhall Lane address, to do laundry and to tell Smith that she wanted a divorce.
Evidence showed that Smith then grabbed a Louisville Slugger bat and struck Katrina multiple times, including several blows to the head.
He then 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’s body was found three weeks later, floating in the Rock River near Byron. Investigators said fast currents allowed it to clear the Fordam Dam in downtown Rockford and make it nearly 30 miles downstream before becoming hung up on a log.
Aftermath, and a conviction for murder
“It took many, many weeks and months of a lot of hard work before we were able to put the whole case together and eventually arrest Todd for the murder of Katrina,” Berg said, adding that the case will forever stay with him.
Smith was convicted of Katrina’s murder in 2017 and sentenced to spend 59 years in prison. He sought to have the conviction overturned this year, citing what he claimed was a biased jury. A judge refused to rule on the request.
“Domestic violence is real and we’ve all talked about it,” Berg said. “And if there are problems, there’s counseling involved. Get counseling, talk to family, and let the families know what’s going on in your personal lives. It’s important to talk about things.”
If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.