Newly released reports provide more details on the September 2023 death of Kalvin Michael Smith, who spent almost 20 years in prison for a brutal crime that led to a community debate about whether he was wrongfully convicted.

An autopsy was unable to determine a cause of death for Smith but noted that his body showed no obvious sign of trauma or disease.

According to the report, Smith was last seen alive around September 5 at an apartment complex near Forsyth Technical Community College. Witnesses said he may have been intoxicated. His body was found about one week later in the back of a vehicle in the parking lot of the apartments.

A toxicology report did not detect any drug use. Alcohol was present in his system but the level could not be determined. 

Smith was convicted of the 1995 robbery and brutal attack of Jill Marker at the Silk Plant Forest store. The assault left her permanently disabled.

Smith was Black, and the victim was white. Smith maintained his innocence in the case and many in the community rallied behind him. The case raised issues of racial bias in the criminal justice system. 

In an interview with WFDD while still incarcerated, Smith denied having any involvement with Marker’s assault.

"Absolutely, positively not. I’d never heard of this place," said Smith. "I never even knew a flower shop existed out here. I never knew this place existed, I’ve never seen Ms. Marker.”

He also spoke optimistically about what he hoped his life would be like after prison.

“The sky’s the limit for me," he said. "You know, I still have dreams. I still have things I want to do. I still have a lot of life left.”

Smith was convicted in 1997. During his incarceration, a series of news articles raised questions about the case. A citizens review committee formed by the Winston-Salem City Council determined it had no confidence in the police investigation. 

Smith was released in late 2016. He was 52 when he died in September.

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