1. Archive

Man found dead from gunshot wound

An hour or so before he was found dead Tuesday, Darryle Antonio Smith called his aunt with a request.

"Pray for me," Smith said, according to his aunt, Everlena Mann.

At 2:46 a.m., Smith, 21, was found in an alley between Third and Fourth avenues S, just west of 27th Street. He had been shot in the chest, his family said.

Detectives do not have a suspect in Tuesday's killing.

"He really was a good kid," said Smith's mother, Elizabeth "Peaches" Lofton, 42, of St. Petersburg. "When he came in that door, he grabbed a hold of me so tight and hugged. And no matter what, that was my baby."

Smith's death is the 11th homicide this year; the third this month.

St. Petersburg detective Ron Noodwang said Smith had been talking with someone in a car before the shooting. "Shots were heard and the car fled," he said.

Police officers responded to a call for a "man shot." They found Smith in the alley.

A few hours before he died, Smith talked to his aunt and girlfriend.

He called his aunt to check in and to ask her to pray for him, a request that Mann said was not uncommon.

"I prayed for him every time," she said.

Smith's girlfriend, Catina Bell, said that the last time she talked with Smith, he was hanging out with friends in the 300 block of 27th Street S.

Bell called him on her cellular phone, which he was carrying.

"He told me that he was just chillin' and that he was on his way home," said Bell, 25.

Bell, who said Smith was helping her raise her two children, fell asleep after talking with him. When she woke up, Smith was not home. Worried, she called the cellular phone. No answer.

Smith's family said he was killed during a robbery by someone who knew him. They said the cell phone and at least $50 were taken. Left in his shorts pocket was a crumpled dollar bill, they said.

All day Tuesday, Bell dialed the cellular phone. Sometimes, she could not get through. But a few times, she said, a man who called himself Mike answered.

"How does this person feel that shot my child?" Smith's mother said.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Smith had six brothers and two sisters. His mother said he attended Pinellas Park Middle School and Pinellas Marine Institute.

In 1996, Smith pleaded guilty to possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell.

"The past is the past," said his sister, Evette Carter, 27. "He wanted to start his life over."

One of the last memories Smith's family has of him is on Easter Sunday. He barbecued for everyone.

"Ribs, chicken, hamburgers," his mother said. "He could cook, now."

_ Times researcher Carolyn Hardnett contributed to this report.