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Death row inmate dies of cancer

Published Sep. 26, 2005

Frank Lee Smith, who killed twice as a teenager and later wound up on death row after raping and killing an 8-year-old girl, died in a state prison hospital of cancer Sunday.

Smith, 52, died at the North Florida Reception Center hospital.

Smith's first victim was John Wesley Span, 14, who was stabbed to death after a Fort Lauderdale high school football game in 1960. Smith, who was 13 at the time of the slaying, served 11 months in a juvenile prison.

Smith was 18 when he and another teen shot a man to death during a robbery. They put his body in the trunk of a car abandoned in South Carolina. Smith pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, but at the time that meant a maximum of 15 years.

Four years later in 1985, Smith broke into Shandra Whitehead's bedroom as she slept and raped, beat and strangled her. Her mother was returning home from work when she saw him climbing out of the girl's window. Smith's insanity defense failed, and he was sentenced to death.