Who is Oscar Franklin Smith? Nashville death row inmate who killed ex-wife and stepkids to be executed Thursday
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: A Nashville man, by the name of Oscar Franklin Smith has been on death row since 1989, after he was convicted of murdering his estranged wife and children. The 70-year-old had his execution date amended due to the pandemic and the Tennessee Supreme Court stayed his June 4, 2020, execution and rescheduled it for February 4, 2021. Kelley Henry, the supervisory assistant federal public defender in Nashville, said that while the state has taken measures to minimize the spread of the virus, the shelter-in-place order has resulted in "the loss of critical time needed to represent Mr. Smith during this critical period."
Smith was accused of murdering his estranged wife Judy Lynn Smith and her two sons from a previous relationship, Chad, 16 and Jason Burnett, 13.
What happened on October 1, 1989?
On October 1st, 1989, Metro Police were summoned to a home on Lutie Street. “It’s something you are never prepared for,” said Mickey Miller, who is a former MNPD homicide detective. The initial call was for a 911 hang up call. According to official court documents, a tape of the call, which was later technically enhanced and played at trial, a young male voice, identified at trial as that of Jason Burnett, is heard crying, "Help me!" In the background another male, who was identified as Chad Burnett, is heard shouting "Frank, no. God, help me!" The call ended abruptly with Jason revealing the address for their Nashville home. Officers arrived at the house five minutes later. They knocked on the front door and there was no answer. Everything was quiet, so the officers assessed the situation as a "false call" and left. However, the gory details came to light the next day. “It was horrific,” said Miller. Officers found Chad Burnett, 16, in the kitchen floor. Then, Judy Smith, 35, on her bed. The youngest victim, Jason, was only 13-years-old. ” It was a bloody mess,” recalled Miller.The bodies were discovered at 3 pm the next day. The medical examiner asserted that both Judy and Chad had died from multiple gunshot and stab wounds.
The case was a horrific one. “I know he [Jason] had been cut across the stomach, and I think he was stabbed in the neck. Maybe one other place,” Miller described. The detectives found several weapons that were used in the murders, including a .22 caliber gun, a knife, an awl, which is ice-pick like tool used in the making of leather.
The initial investigations
Initially, investigators believed that multiple suspects were involved in the murders, because it seemed unlikely that one suspect would not have had several weapons, according to Miller. “We were told by the husband, when we did get a hold of him, that she had been involved in some drug activity. We were able to prove that none of that was true.” Instead, investigators made a breakthrough in the case, that led them to the killer – a 911 call and a handprint.
On July 26, 1990, Judy’s estranged husband, Oscar Franklin Smith, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. “Oscar had lost these two fingers in a machine accident,” Miller revealed. “So, the first thing we see on there was this hand print missing these two fingers from that knuckle up. So that was pretty significant. He showed no emotion in the trial. Not anything.” Miller said. “When you look in his eyes, it was like there was nothing or nobody there.”
Officers on speaking to Smiths's co-workers at Maintenance Service Corporation in Lavergne came upon one man who testified that, in the early summer months of 1988, Smith offered to kill his wife if he would, in turn, kill Judy, as shown by court documents.
Smith was to be executed this past summer on June 4. However it was delayed. According to the AP, Smith’s attorneys argued that performing an execution during a pandemic puts witnesses at risk of transmitting coronavirus to staff and prison inmates. However, Miller said, “When they kill two innocent children, it’s just horrific. He needs to pay.”
Despite a death sentence, Smith still maintains his innocence.