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KILLER OF THIRD SIBLING TO SERVE 40 YEARS

In unrelated incidents, two brothers were stabbed and a sister shot.

James Peak died of stab wounds last year, the third violent death in his family.

His brother, too, had been fatally stabbed, his sister shot and killed by a man who mistook her for a thief.

Both their killers are serving lengthy Florida prison sentences. On Thursday, a judge ordered Peak's killer to join them.

Michael Edmund Smith, 30, knew he had it coming. As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with a weapon and false imprisonment in exchange for 40 years in prison.

He also must serve five years of probation and complete an anger management course.

Initially, he faced a first-degree murder charge and a life sentence.

Smith said nothing in court Thursday. He already had confessed to the May 30 attack, telling deputies he stabbed Peak because he thought the Gibsonton man was messing around with his girlfriend.

The evening of the attack, Smith of Apollo Beach had gone to Peak's home at the Pinewood Mobile Home Park to find out.

He brought two of his children with him, and a knife. Peak wasn't there, but his sister-in-law, Amy Peak, and her four young children were.

Smith said he planned to kill "Jimmy." He held Amy Peak and her children captive, said he'd kill them if she tried to warn her brother-in-law or husband.

When James Peak arrived, Smith stabbed him at the front door. Peak tried to run, but Smith chased him and stabbed him at least two more times.

Peak died in front of the mobile home where his children lived with his ex.

Peak's sister was Crystal Stith, who also had a tie to Smith: She was the mother of two of his children. She died at age 19 in 2002, shot in the head by a man armed with an assault rifle. Jason Pospeschil was convicted of manslaughter and is serving a 15-year prison sentence.

One of the deputies who investigated Stith's death also investigated her brother's last year, said Assistant Public Defender Christopher D. Watson.

Their brother, Joseph Peak, was 17 when a man stabbed him to death in 1994 at Whiskey Stump, a beach surrounded by thick woods south of Gibsonton. William David Walker Jr. was sentenced to 40 years in prison as a habitual offender.

In her 25 years on the job, prosecutor Ada Carmona said, she can't remember another family suffering three violent, unrelated losses in so little time.

"A parent does not expect to bury or lose a child, let alone three," she said.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

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