Crime

Pair Charged In Wal-Mart Killing Targeted Women Across U.S. South

Stephanie Rodriguez and Brandon Smith

A man and woman facing murder charges for running over a 65-year-old woman outside a Wal-Mart in suburban Atlanta are suspected in 10 purse snatchings and a kidnapping in parking lots in five Southern states, authorities said on Monday.

Brandon Shawn Smith, 27, and Stephanie Marie Rodriguez, 37, were arrested during the weekend in central Tennessee, according to police in Covington, Georgia, where the Wal-Mart death occurred. They were jailed in Tennessee on Monday awaiting extradition to Georgia.

Authorities say Smith and Rodriguez may have been involved in at least 10 purse snatchings and one kidnapping in recent weeks in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida.

"These suspects targeted Wal-Marts and elderly female victims walking alone to their cars in the day and night," Covington police said in a statement.

Smith and Rodriguez were charged with murder in the Nov. 16 death of Marsha Johnson. Covington Police said Smith grabbed Johnson's purse outside a Wal-Mart and dragged her through the parking lot before running her over with his car multiple times.

Rodriguez was in the car with Smith at the time of the killing, police said.

Covington police spokesman Captain Craig Treadwell said the two lived from "motel to motel" supporting themselves through purse snatchings.

Smith and Rodriguez were arrested in Manchester, Tennessee, after police, acting on a tip, stopped their car.

(Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Letitia Stein and Bill Trott) Photo credit: Gloucester County Sheriff's Office via WAVY

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