Grandmother sentenced to life in prison for killing pregnant woman

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A Greene County woman has been sentenced to life in prison for her role in the death of a pregnant woman. 

Vonda Star Smith, of Afton, TN, was found guilty on May 25 of first-degree murder in the 2016 death of a 21-year-old pregnant woman and second-degree murder in the death of her unborn child.  

On Monday, a judge sentenced her to life in prison for first-degree murder and a maximum of 25 years for the second-degree murder charge. 

Prosecutors say Jessie Morrison died from blunt force trauma and she was pregnant at the time of her death, leading to a second murder charge against Smith.   

On August 12, 2016, Morrison’s body was discovered on the side of the road near Jud Neal Loop in Afton.

Smith is reportedly the grandmother of one of Morrison’s two living children. 

Judge John F. Dugger Jr. listened to both the mitigating and enhancement factors from Smith’s attorney, Gene Scott, and the state.

Scott asked the judge for the minimum sentence of 15 years in the second degree murder charge. He argued Smith has a small criminal record. She was convicted of writing worthless checks in 1993 and that she worked at the same job for 28 years.

Three witnesses who know Smith took the stand in her defense.

“She’s just a good person. I’m going to miss her,” said a former co-worker, Jessica Price.

Judge Dugger took several factors into account when sentencing Smith, who had tears running down her face during witness testimony.

The judge says the victim, being the fetus, was vulnerable because of age and that a deadly weapon was used during the murder because Morrison died of blunt force trauma.

“Severe lacerations to her skull and fracture in the top of her skull some type of object was used,” said Dugger.

He also said Smith violated Morrison’s trust. He said she got into Smith’s car not long before the murder.

“She trusted you with her life and her kid’s. You all were all there together and she trusted being with you, as opposed to being with a stranger and bad things happened, this murder happened after that,” he said.

Judge Dugger sentenced Smith to life in prison for first degree murder and gave her the maximum sentence for second degree murder.

“You will have an effective sentence of life imprisonment. You’re rendered infamous as a convicted felon.”

After the sentencing Tammy Morrison, Jessie’s mother, took the stand.

“There’s not enough justice on this earth that can bring my daughter back. Or my grandchild. My biggest consolation is she will never see her grandchild again,” Morrison said.

Smith’s attorney requested a new trial in the case. A hearing in that matter has been scheduled for September 4 at 1 p.m.

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