June 16, 2010
Gary Davidson
Public Information Officer


Nearly seven years after a violent home invasion near Orange City victimized a married couple and their sleeping children, DNA lifted from blood droplets on a bathroom tile has led to an arrest. Volusia County Sheriff’s investigators believe the suspect, 26-year-old Robert Smithers of Longwood, bled on the tile after cutting himself while smashing a set of sliding glass doors to break into the home. Investigators are still working to identify three other suspects who took part in the attack. One of the victims sustained a head laceration in the assault after being struck with a tire iron.

The four attackers targeted a family on 2nd Street, breaking into the house and demanding drugs, money and jewelry. The victims had no involvement with drugs, and investigators believe the suspects may have hit the wrong house and actually intended to target another resident on the same street. Two of the intruders accosted the husband, with one -- later identified as Smithers -- pointing a gun at his head and then attacking him with the tire iron. The other two suspects confronted the wife, who was asleep on a couch in the living room. The couple told investigators that during the attack, the suspects threatened to kill them and their children. The couple’s two daughters, ages 6 and 12, were asleep in the house at the time, but didn’t wake up during the ordeal. After about 10 minutes, the suspects fled the house with some money, jewelry and an electronic game system. Once they discovered that their phone lines had been cut, the couple then went to a neighbor to summon help.

Crime scene technicians from the Sheriff’s Office who were dispatched to the scene to search for clues ended up cutting out a piece of bathroom tile from the victims’ home because it contained what appeared to be blood droplets. But after eliminating a list of possible suspects, the Sheriff’s Office was forced to suspend the investigation back in September 2003. That all changed in November of last year, when new information from a confidential informant caused the Sheriff’s Office to re-open the case. The decision was then made to send the tile to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab for analysis. And in March of this year, investigators learned from FDLE that the droplets were indeed blood and that the DNA matched the DNA of a brand new suspect -- Smithers. Investigators then re-interviewed the victims, and one of them picked out Smithers from a photo line-up. But investigators were unable to locate Smithers to question him. So on March 30, the case agent -- investigator Chuck Lee -- obtained arrest warrants charging Smithers with armed home invasion, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

The search for Smithers ended Monday during a traffic stop in Seminole County. Smithers was transported to Volusia County and booked into the Branch Jail Tuesday afternoon, where he’s being held without bond.

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