The New Yorker: A Detroit Hitman and a Teen Who Confessed to 4 Of His Murders

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Vincent Smothers wasn't just another criminal in Detroit.

As his 12th grade English teacher Charlene Handelman said in the New Yorker magazine: "He wasn't the first of my honors students who turned to murder-for-hire."

Smothers was a professional hitman and is in the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia. He was sentenced in 2010 to 50 to 100 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to eight murders. One of the hits was the wife of a Detroit cop who was killed in 2007. The cop hired him.

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In the article, Smothers says of the city he  grew up in: "Detroit is two-underclasses below low-class."

Writer Nadya Labi weaves a fascinating tale of Smothers' life.

Interestingly, she writes on the website that Smothers agreed to talk to her because he wanted to right a wrong: A half-blind teen-ager named Davontae Sanford confessed to four murders on Runyon Street in Detroit that Smothers says he did. 

Sanford, now 19,  was known to embellish and make things up. He was sentenced in 2008 to 37 to 90 years in prison. He has recanted his confession, but to no avail. Smothers says it's a grave injustice.

Nadya writes on the website:

The judge who presided over Sanford’s trial and subsequent “innocence hearing” rejected Sanford’s bid to withdraw his plea, and it is now up to Michigan’s Court of Appeals to decide whether that decision should stand. Even if the court finds in Sanford’s favor, the state has the right to prosecute Sanford again, with Smothers’s confession to the Runyon homicides as part of the record. “Davontae has been railroaded,” Smothers told me, adding later: “The police and the prosecutor can say whatever they want, but they knew he was innocent. They started the coverup from day one.”

(You can read an online summary of the story. You have to be a subscriber to read the full story online.) -- A.L.

Read more:  New Yorker
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