CHAMBERS COUNTY, Texas -- A determined detective, a meeting with a community activist and an out-of-state drug charge helped bring an end to a 14-year-old murder case.
The extraordinary set of circumstances ended on Tuesday with a signed confession from Kevin Edison Smith, 45, a contract welder who has held several jobs in Texas and Louisiana.
In 1996, Krystal Baker, 13, disappeared from her Texas City neighborhood. Her body was later found dumped under the Trinity River bridge off Interstate 10 in Chambers County, east of Houston.
Detectives had few leads in the case and the trail eventually went cold. Last year, Chambers County Sheriff Joe LaRive instructed one of his deputies to begin going over old, unsolved cases to determine if new leads could be generated.
"This case really stuck with my deputy because it was so horrific," said LaRive.
LaRive said his deputy asked if DNA evidence from the slaying could be run through a national database of DNA samples taken from crimes to determine if there was a match. LaRive said DNA found on Baker's body matched Smith's DNA.
LaRive said Smith had been arrested earlier this year on a drug charge in Livonia, La. Police in Louisiana took a sample of Smith's DNA and had it sent to the national database.
Smith was arrested on Sept. 15. After his arrest, LaRive said another DNA sample was taken from Smith and a second test also showed a match to DNA found on Baker's body.
However, LaRive said Smith maintained his innocence. During a jailhouse interview with Local 2 Investigates, Smith admitted living in the Texas City area during the time Baker disappeared but doesn't understand how DNA tests could have linked him to the crime.
"Man, I stay up for days. I stay up all day thinking and thinking and thinking what happened, what did I do?" Smith said.
Smith said he was not a violent man, adding he has son in the Houston area and wife in Louisiana.
"I'm the nicest person in the world. I help people and I treat people right," Smith said.
"There were a lot of tears shed during that meeting," said Quanell X. "There was a lot he wanted to say. There was a lot he wanted to get off his chest. He did confess to the crime."
LaRive credits Quanell X with getting Smith to finally talk. Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Lieck told Local 2 Smith then gave a written confession and provided investigators with details of the murder that had never been released.
"We didn't tell him everything that we had. That proves to us it's not an empty confession," said Lieck. "He knew the circumstances, he knew certain things that had not been released to the public."
Lieck said that in exchange for the confession she agreed not to seek the death penalty. Lieck said Smith is expected to be formally indicted by a grand jury next month before entering a guilty plea to capital murder charges.
Lieck said since Baker was murdered in 1996, Smith cannot be sentenced to life without parole because that law did not exist in Texas at the time the crime was committed. Lieck said Smith most likely will be sentenced to life in prison, but under the sentencing guidelines at the time he must serve a minimum of 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole. Smith will be 85 years old.