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West Virginia Teen Gavin Smith Sentenced For Murdering His Family In ‘Act Of Pure Evil’
Gavin Smith fatally shot his mother, stepfather, and two brothers — the youngest of whom was hiding under his crib — after his parents forbade him from seeing his girlfriend.
A West Virginia teen received the maximum sentence for fatally shooting four family members.
Gavin Smith, now 18, was ordered to spend life behind bars for the shooting deaths of his mother, stepfather and two young brothers, all of whom he fatally shot on Dec. 13, 2020, at their Elkview, West Virginia, home, just northeast of Charleston, according to ABC Charleston affiliate WCHS-TV.
“I do regret this, and if I could, I would take it back because it is one of my deepest regrets,” Smith said at sentencing.
Smith was found guilty of first-degree murder in December for killing his mother, Risa Mae Saunders-Long, 39, stepfather Daniel Dale Long, 37, and his youngest brother, Jameson Long, 3, for which he was handed three life sentences.
The judge also sentenced him to 40 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder for the death of his brother, Gage Ripley, 12, plus another 10 years for the use or presentment of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
However, because Smith committed the murders while 16 years of age, the life sentences were handed with mercy, meaning the defendant can apply for a pardon after he becomes eligible for parole after serving 15 years of his sentence, according to West Virginia state law. The mandate can be applied retroactively to fit the defendant’s age when the crimes occurred, despite his now being over 18 and being tried as an adult.
Judge Kenneth Ballard said he only granted mercy because it was mandated by law, according to NBC Huntington, West Virginia affiliate WSAZ-TV.
In December, a Kanawha County jury agreed with prosecutors that Smith murdered his parents because they allegedly forbade Smith from seeing his girlfriend, Rebecca Walker, then 17. During the trial, evidence showed Smith and Walker were on a video chat before, during, and after the murders.
Walker claimed she didn’t personally witness the murders because the screen went black, according to WCHS-TV.
Smith killed his parents and the 12-year-old brother before returning to the video call. After hearing the youngest child crying in the background, Smith returned and killed the youngest victim.
Relatives found the bodies four days after the murders.
Walker was accused of letting Smith hide at her grandmother’s home and later pleaded guilty to four counts of being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, for which she is currently serving a 10-year sentence.
Judge Ballard called the murders "an act of pure evil,” according to WCHS-TV.
“This was a heinous crime. You murdered your entire family in cold blood, Mr. Smith. You devised this plan to kill your family days and weeks in advance for the selfish reason of spending time with your girlfriend,” said Ballard. “You executed your mother and stepfather by shooting them in the head while they were asleep. Then you executed your two brothers by shooting them in the head, the youngest of which was hiding under his crib.”
Ballard said the defendant showed “zero remorse,” citing probation officers who reported Smith allegedly felt “justified” with his actions, according to the Charleston outlet.
Smith’s attorneys had challenged the prosecution's request to sentence Smith to the max, arguing he had been in jail since his arrest. They previously argued that Smith’s home was “basically a pressure cooker,” according to West Virginia Metro News.
“He was basically trapped in a household from a combination of his family’s rules and COVID shutting down the schools,” Smith’s attorney, John Sullivan, stated. “Gavin wasn’t allowed to leave the house.”
The victims’ loved ones, including Daniel Long’s adoptive parents, pushed for the harshest sentence.
Doug Long gave an emotional statement at sentencing regarding his dead son and grandchildren, according to WSAZ-TV.
“I never expected my life to be in such turmoil at this stage in my life,” said Mr. Long. “No one knows what life brings, and the situation surrounding this horrific murder was unimaginable. Nothing could prepare me for the sorrow and hurt inflicted on me and my family by this incident.”
Doug Long’s wife, Susan Long, also spoke at sentencing, claiming she wished the sentences hadn’t come with mercy, according to Metro News.
“I believe it is the best interest of our world to have someone who has murdered four individuals, including a defenseless baby, not to be considered for parole,” said Mrs. Long. “Just because he was 16 at the time doesn’t make a difference. He still took lives.”
Records show Smith is housed at the South Central Regional Jail and Correction Facility in Charleston before his expected transfer to state prison. Walker is eligible for parole in June, with a projected release date listed as Dec. 15, 2025.