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Renowned photographer, corrections officer dies in motorcycle accident

By Pat Reavy and Sandra Yi | Posted - Sep 18th, 2013 @ 6:24pm

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RIVERTON — A Utah Adult Probation and Parole officer, who also became an accomplished award-winning photographer, was killed Wednesday in a motorcycle accident.

Marvell "Vell" Smith, 40, was heading east on 12600 South about 7:45 a.m. on his motorcycle, when a large truck made a left turn out of the South Valley Sewer District at 4425 West, said Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal.

The motorcyclist slammed into the side of the vehicle. Smith was wearing a helmet and other protective gear, Hoyal said, but he died from his injuries after being taken to the hospital.

Wednesday afternoon, both the law enforcement and Utah photography communities mourned his loss by placing flowers at the crash site. Smith had worked at the Department of Corrections for 16 years.

"Anyone that Marvell knew would be affected (by his death) because he was just a really outgoing, loving guy," said Lindsy Halladay, who worked with Smith for several years at the Department of Corrections. "It's definitely been a shock and tragedy."

"Marvell belonged to a very supportive photography community, and we are all heartbroken by his loss," someone from Kati Ann Photography wrote on Marvell's photography Facebook page. Smith started Vellvet Images Photography in 2009, shooting mainly wedding and portraiture shots.

"Everybody loved him and he was always willing to teach everyone everything he knew, which, as a photographer, you don't want to teach people your job, but he was always willing to do that," said friend and fellow photographer, Kati Powell.

Several local photographers offered to finish Smith's pending work for his clients donating the income from the wedding to Smith's family and sons.*

Smith is survived by his two young boys, who started seventh and 10th grades this year, Halladay said.

Smith was a star running back for Mountain View High School and played football for BYU before an injury cut his career short, Halladay said. He was a member of the Corrections' Department SWAT team before an on-the-job injury there also forced him to take a less physically demanding position.

"Anyone that Marvell knew would be affected (by his death) because he was just a really outgoing, loving guy."

Smith soon found himself in the transportation division of Corrections, driving inmates back and forth to medical appointments. Halladay said he got along well with employees and inmates alike.

"He interacted with the offenders on a respectful level to where they'd feel comfortable. (He) treated them as an individual, never judged them for their crimes," she said.

Two months ago, he transitioned into a new position with AP&P, working with drug offenders.

"He just had a way of being able to read people and make them feel comfortable and help them realize things they wanted to accomplish. He's going to be missed terribly," Halladay said.

"He was just a fantastic people person. He could talk to anyone and make anyone feel comfortable. He was just super outgoing, funny, happy, always positive, never had anything bad to say about anybody. If you were having a bad day, he was that guy who would always put a smile on your face because he was always smiling and happy."

After his SWAT career ended, Smith took up photography as a hobby at the encouragement of family members. Friends said that he had a passion for the arts, and he also spoke several languages and played the violin and banjo.

"He just had an eye for detail. He just excelled," Halladay said.

In 2012, he was named Salt Lake County Photographer of the Year.

Smith wrote on a photography profile website: "For as long as I can remember I have been interested in photography but never had the time or the resources to really get into it. It wasn't until I had an unfortunate injury at work that I took time to seriously look at pursuing my passion for the art. I knew I loved it before but wow! ... I love life and everything it has to offer. The camera has given me a way to share my vision of the world and the great people in it."

"You will be missed dearly. You were an inspiration to your Utah photographers community," Heather Smith wrote on the Vellvet Images Facebook page.

"One of my favorite photographers. His work was inspiring and he was a great help to others in our photo community. Always willing to answer questions and share his knowledge. Can't stop the tears," Jennifer Frank wrote on the page.

Halladay said Smith also loved his motorcycle.

"That was his baby," she said.

The Unified Police Department's Crash Analysis and Reconstruction team investigated the incident and was expected to turn its report over to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office for consideration of possible charges.

A donation fund** has been set up for Smith's two sons on For more information, you can visit the Marvell Smith YouCaring page here. Another fund has also been set up for the family at

*People who had wedding photography bookings with Smith can email Kati Powell at

** has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does assure that the monies deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.


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