"I was a little afraid because I did not know what Vanessa was capable of. I told her to get off my property or I would call the police. She started to walk toward the gate, then turned and announced, `You'll never get to have him,' and `I will do whatever it takes to keep him away from you.' She was alternately screaming and speaking softly, like there was something really wrong with her. Then, just before Scott appeared on the stairs, she screamed, `You will never touch him again.'"
- Kelly Racobs, Affidavit 2014
It cannot be overstated how important Vanessa Smith's testimony was for the prosecution and Scott's conviction. The State’s entire case rests on her testimony. And this testimony is deeply flawed for a variety of reasons:
Vanessa had a history of serious mental illness and substance abuse. The obvious implications were not discussed at trial.
At the time of her statement Vanessa and Scott had just broken up. Vanessa was extremely jealous and had vowed vengeance, going as far as promising to find a way to take him away from his new partner forever.
After she went to the police, Vanessa was under immense pressure when making her statement. Later, she herself came forward to tell the story of how she felt the need to adopt the story given to her by law enforcement, under the threat of losing her son.
Vanessa’s statements and testimony were completely contradictory to the crime scene evidence. There can be no doubt that events did not unfold the way she told them.
Vanessa Smith accused Scott of the murder immediately after returning from an angry confrontation at his new girlfriend's house. Then, finding herself under the same charge of murder and scared of losing her son as the result of her actions, she was given the right things to say by law enforcement and a plea bargain for her testimony by the prosecution in order to convict Scott of first degree murder.
What makes this story even more distressing is that 20 years later Vanessa herself came forward to try and put things right, and no-one would listen to her. She died in early 2021.
The Fabricated Story
"Vanessa was in love with Scott. She was obsessed with him. She was very angry that Scott had gone back to Colorado to be with Kelly. When Vanessa returned from Denver, she told me to tell Scott to come get her or she would "make his life miserable." Shortly after that she went to the police."
-Affidavit Joyce Allen 2012
Scott and Vanessa had been involved in a very intense relationship that had just come to a crashing end, in no small part down to Vanessa's continuing drug abuse. Scott had recently begun a new relationship with another woman and, as described by multiple witnesses, this infuriated Vanessa to the point of derangement and resulted in her lying to the police in order to get revenge on her ex-lover.
Vanessa Smith's statements only managed to get two material facts of the crime right: that the murder weapon was a shotgun and the rough location of where it happened. This is information that in all likelihood was circulating freely. Vanessa completely failed two very important tests for any eye witness – she failed to provide any knowledge only a true witness could have possessed and included too many details that directly contradicted the evidence at the scene.
You can see how her story is completely disproved by the physical evidence and the testimony of other far more credible witnesses here.
At the time of her supposed 'confessions' Vanessa was unaware of the other witnesses that had said she could not have been at the scene as she had stated and, tied up by her own lies and now under charge herself, she 'cooperated' with law enforcement and concocted a story that would ultimately land Scott with a death sentence.
Even before she finally came forward to recant this travesty last year, she'd already admitted it herself. In a verified letter written to Scott pre trial- despite her false accusations to the police and what she would go onto lie about on the witness stand, she clearly writes here in this letter-they are both innocent of this.
Credibility as a Witness
"If Mr. Allen's attorneys had had access to the abovementioned records of Ms. S. there is considerable information in them that bears upon her veracity, her character, and the dependability of her testimony."
- Affidavit John F. Warren III, Psychologist
"...as I told all these folks in private, I might have done something different had I been the trial judge. The trial judge may should have given you that stuff about that mental health information"
- Judge Long, Dec 2018
"The night I turned myself in, I honestly remember very little about my first interrogation. I was drunk on beer and high on marijuana when the police came to pick me up at my Charlotte, NC residence. I remember the police telling me that I needed to put my beer down and I was so drunk that I laughed and quickly drained it"
- Signed questionnaire- Vanessa S. Brown Jan 2021
Whilst defense counsel made the most cursory attempts to outline Vanessa Smith's drug dependency and instability, they were prevented from fully exploring her history of serious mental illness, involuntary commitment for the above and her propensity for lying, deceitful and manipulative behaviour.
Vanessa suffered from an early age, having been adopted into an abusive family and traumatised by her treatment at the hands of both her adoptive father and early romantic relationships. This presented itself in her early drug use, including alcohol abuse from age 12, and her need for mental health treatment from the age of 14 onwards.
The trial judge, in camera (i.e. without the presence of any other than Vanessa Smith's own representative) decided that her mental health records had no bearing on the case. Upon post conviction review it became apparent that the contents of her records were so shocking and extreme that any juror would have seriously doubted the veracity of anything Vanessa had to say.
However, the trial judge, without any qualification, or assistance from any mental health expert denied Scott the right to fully present just how untrustworthy Vanessa's testimony could be.
A number of affidavits also show Vanessa's deceit and manipulation of others to serve her own ends. She even managed to secure her own release from jail pre-trial by enticing a prison guard into inappropriate behaviour and using sexual favours to ensure- in her words- her "ticket out of here."
As Dr Warren concluded, after having finally been given access to Vanessa's medical records, that Vanessa's behavioural patterns were "self-centered, manipulative, exploitative, promiscuous, antisocial and self-protective at the expense of others." He also noted that her records repeatedly referred to her as "spiritually bankrupt."
Another expert has since reviewed these records and come to a similar conclusion, referencing borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. In the words of Dr. Herfkens:
"I've read more medical records than I could even wrap my head around, honestly over the course of my career, and this is among the worst descriptions of a substance abuse disorder that I've ever seen."
Would you convict a man of murder based on the sole word of a woman as troubled as has been described above?
Seeking to put things right
"Uhm …I have tried to reach out to Scott’s lawyers. I feel very scared … uhm … about going on the record with any of this, because the district’s attorney’s office made it clear to me that they could come back at any time and charge me with accessory or recharge me with, you know, (this kind of thing?) … and that makes me really nervous. Uhm. I’ve tried to reach out to his lawyers about getting some kind of representation for myself, so I’ll be protected. I just want someone looking out for my interest."
- Video Interview Vanessa S Brown January 2021
The only reason Scott is in the situation he is in at this present moment is down to Vanessa's accusations and subsequent testimony.
As recounted elsewhere on this site, her statements and accusations could and should have hardly been believed by law enforcement, but for ulterior motive. The prosecution knew they had the shakiest case and the barest of believable witnesses, but they put their case forward anyway. And then Scott's trial counsel were so unbelievably incompetent they failed to show this up to the jury.
And now, after 20 years, the State's witness finally came forward to admit what Scott and those witnesses around at the time knew all along. She was put under pressure and she lied.
She was brave enough to allow a video interview and filled in and signed a questionnaire for this site, but all official help that she spent months pleading to get from anyone who would listen fell on deaf ears. This all came to a tragic end when her demons caught up with her in February of this year and she passed away.
If you've cared enough to read to here, you must understand by now how devastating this is. Scott is sitting on Death Row, under a death sentence for something he did not do and, despite the one person that put him there coming forward to say this was wrong and she lied and would anyone please help her put it right, no-one would listen. And now she's gone, and will never know whether what she was desperately trying to do will ever come to pass.