Smoot gets 12 years in stalking case

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Attempted murderer and stalker Andrew Smoot was taken away in handcuffs as his victims breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in over a year at Valencia County District Court Monday afternoon.

State prosecutors huddled around Smoot's victims, Emilie Deans and her mother, Jennifer, and gave out hugs and kisses immediately after Smoot was taken into custody during his sentencing hearing.

District Court Judge Violet Otero sentenced Smoot to 12 years with the New Mexico Corrections Department followed by two years of probation for his role in the case where he tried to kill Deans.

"It's an amazing day," said Emilie Deans after the sentencing hearing Monday. "I can start my life now and have a family. I can go get married now and feel OK about it. I couldn't do that before. I was afraid."

Smoot, 23, pleaded no contest in November to two counts of attempted second-degree murder and attempted aggravated arson after he tried to kill Deans, an ex-girlfriend he met via the Internet.

In May 2011, Smoot parked his Nissan Maxima with a bottle of lighter fluid on the trunk before a Valencia County sheriff's deputy saw the suspicious vehicle while on a routine patrol.

Deputies also found an open package of Latex gloves, an open package of face masks, anti-freeze and a package of steaks.

The man told deputies he intentionally soaked the steak with anti-freeze and threw it over the fence for the family's dog to ingest. Smoot told the deputies he wanted the dog to be incapacitated so he could approach the residence.

Deans told the judge she felt unsafe and said Smoot threatened and harassed her after the two broke up after three days as a couple. She said the two met online, but broke up shortly after because he lied about his age. She was 16 at the time and Smoot was 21.

But Smoot persisted and while out on bond, he contacted Deans through email and Facebook, despite the terms of his release to stop contacting Deans and her family.

Deputies said Smoot used spy software to get into her account to create messages and sent Deans numerous messages from different user names that told her she should leave Smoot alone.

"No matter where I have gone, he has managed to find me," Deans said in a statement to the court. "My self-esteem and my self-worth has really been damaged."

Assistant District Attorney Anne Keener said Smoot originally faced almost 50 years in prison. She said the stalking case is to the "worst extreme," and said Smoot used his age to his advantage.

"He took advantage of that situation and he terrorized her and her mother for weeks, for months," Keener said, "to the point that there he was in their ally with lighter fluid, with an anti-freeze steak, to set their house on fire. He had thrown the steak over (the fence.)

"This is not a suicide attempt on Mr. Smoot's part," Keener said. "This is a murder attempt."

Anne Rose, a forensic psychologist for the defense, evaluated Smoot and said he suffered a serious trauma at the age of 8 when his sister died unexpectedly during surgery. She said he suffers from a social developmental delay and has difficulty making decisions.

She said he lives in "fantasy" in social relationships and recommended he be placed in a treatment program. She said sentencing him to prison would be a "death sentence."

Defense Attorney Stephen C. M. Long recommended the judge suspend Smoot's entire sentence so he could be placed in a Houston-based treatment program.

Long disputed that Smoot admitted to attempting to burn down the house and said his client "continually denied" that he intended to hurt anyone during questioning with law enforcement.

Otero said Smoot is "immature, smart and dangerous" and ordered he be immediately remanded into custody. She said he cannot contact the victims and cannot have access to a computer as part of his sentence.

The judge said she was "outraged" the defense would insinuate that the victims would be safer if Smoot wasn't in state custody.

"There is no doubt in my mind there was premeditation and planning," Otero said.

Assistant District Attorney Darlene Weed said that the victims in the case can finally breathe easy.

"Today is the day that Emilie Deans can finally wake up in the morning and not be scared that someone is going to harm her," she said.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.