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Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend

Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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Sandra Yi ReportingA former Marine, who killed his girlfriend, will go to prison for 1 to 15 years.

The victim's family packed a Tooele courtroom for the sentencing.

Before the judge sentenced Walter Smith for manslaughter, Smith turned to the victim's family and made a tearful apology. The victim's family says that was the first time they've seen any emotion from him.

The judge gave some credit to Walter Smith for confessing to his girlfriend's murder; saying it shows Smith has a conscience. Smith's seemingly sincere apology in court was also comforting to the victim's family. Nicole Speirs' father, John, said, "We're appreciative that he confessed. We thought he'd done it all along, and we're glad he showed some remorse."

Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend
Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend

In March of 2006, Nicole Speirs drowned in her bathtub. The medical examiner ruled it an "unexplained death." Smith confessed to murder eight months later.

In exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors reduced the murder charge to manslaughter. Valerie Broadbent, Speirs' aunt, said, "I'm not sure Walter got what he deserved, but at least this is over with, and we can move on."

Smith's attorney says Smith, an Iraq war veteran, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend

Smith was discharged from the Marine Corps because of P.T.S.D., but Speirs' family says that's no excuse for murder. Kent Broadbent, Speirs' uncle, said, "Don't get me wrong. We have the utmost sympathy and respect for the people when they serve in our military, and they go through some hard times. I was raised in the Vietnam era, I know a lot of people that had bad experiences there on that, and I'm sure Walter did have bad experiences in Iraq, and we feel sorry for him for that. The bottom line is: Does that give him an excuse to murder Nicole? If he had that much problems, he should have gotten help for himself."

The couple had twins. They are now 2 years old. Speirs' parents plan to legally adopt them.

Relatives say they'll make sure the children never forget their mother. Valerie said, "We will tell the babies, we will tell the twins what a great person she was."

Prosecutors say they may never know a motive for the murder. They say Smith has never given one.

Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend
Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend

The medical examiner ruled it an unexplained death. Eight months later, Smith admitted to killing her. Smith's attorney says that Smith, who is an Iraq War veteran, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He was discharged from the Marine Corps for P.T.S.D. Speirs' family says that's no reason for murder.

Kent Broadbent, Speirs' uncle, says, "Don't get me wrong. We have the utmost sympathy and respect for the people when they serve in our military, and they go through some hard times. I was raised in the Vietnam era, I know a lot of people that had bad experiences there on that, and I'm sure Walter did have bad experiences in Iraq, and we feel sorry for him for that. The bottom line is: Does that give him an excuse to murder Nicole?"

Valerie Broadbent, Speirs' aunt, said, "That's the thing with the military thing; they focus so much on Walter, Walter, Walter. Well, I want to tell you, Nicole was an amazing young woman, and she was a good mother, and she was a great artist, and she was going into graphic design. She had a lot to offer the world."

Smith confessed to drowning Speirs last December.-->

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