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The man suspected of stabbing a woman to death at an upscale Los Angeles furniture store earlier this month has officially been charged in her murder.
Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was identified as a suspect in the Jan. 13 murder of UCLA student Brianna Kupfer just days after a customer found the 24-year-old Pacific Palisades woman in a pool of blood at Croft House, where she worked.
LAPD officials stated, prior to identifying Smith, that was their belief that the afternoon stabbing was a random attack committed by a homeless man who fled the scene through the store’s back door.
Police arrested Smith on Wednesday morning in Pasadena near Fair Oaks and Colorado Boulevard, 15 miles from the crime scene.
On Friday, Smith was officially charged with one count of murder and “a special allegation that he used a deadly and dangerous weapon, a knife,” according to an announcement by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
“Those who show no compassion for human life will face serious consequences,” Gascón stated. “The murder of Brianna Kupfer has left Los Angeles County devastated, and my office is reaching out to her family to provide any services they may need.”
Kupfer was working alone at the North La Brea Avenue business in Hancock Park when Smith allegedly entered the store. As previously reported, Kupfer texted a friend that she had a “bad vibe” about someone who’d entered Croft House — just 14 minutes before her murder was reported to the police.
Wilshire patrol officers found Kupfer dead on the scene.
“Detectives have determined the suspect was not known to the victim and was a random walk-in to the store,” the LAPD stated, adding that there was no known motive for the murder.
Days later, police appealed for the public’s help by releasing a surveillance video showing the then-unidentified suspect at a local 7-Eleven 30 minutes after Kupfer’s murder. Authorities later identified the man as Shawn Laval Smith and circulated a community alert with his information the day before his arrest.
Police located Smith, a transient with a criminal history and mental illness, after a tipster reported seeing Smith sitting on a bus bench, according to the Los Angeles Times. At the time of Kupfer’s murder, Smith was out on bond pending trial in South Carolina for discharging a flare gun into a moving vehicle with a child inside back in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed his other legal proceedings.
Smith has an even longer rap sheet, with nearly a dozen arrests under his belt starting in 2010, according to Los Angeles’s ABC 7.
Authorities in North Carolina had charged Smith with several crimes over the years — including assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, according to CBS affiliate WBTV — before the currently pending charges against him there. The Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office dismissed the earlier case due to a lack of evidence.
In 2018, Smith pleaded guilty to a 2016 assault on a police officer in Charleston, South Carolina, according to the LA Times. He was sentenced to time served.
Smith was also arrested in California in the fall of 2020 on a misdemeanor charge, but the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office declined to press charges. ABC 7 said that charge was possession of stolen property.
In early 2021, Smith was charged with resisting arrest after officers stopped him for vandalizing a car in Daly City, California, the LA Times also reported. In that case, Smith allegedly bit one of the officers and was later charged with assault on a police officer. Smith served 133 days of an eight-month sentence at the San Mateo County jail and received two years probation.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Smith’s defense attorney claimed their client was mentally incompetent to stand trial for the 2021 charges but that a judge found Smith competent after two doctors evaluated him in May.
Wagstaffe said Smith twice failed to report to his probation officer, adding that his probation was revoked last November.
A bench warrant had been issued for Smith’s arrest, but he continued to live under the radar.
It was not clear if Smith had retained legal representation in the murder charges for Kupfer’s murder.
“I’m absolutely devastated for her and her family,” Croft House co-owner Riley Rea told the LA Times. “It just seems so disgusting and unexpected. Really, there are no words to say how shocked we are to lose such a wonderful person.”
Shawn Laval Smith’s bail is set at $2 million, according to the LA Times. His arraignment was postponed until Feb. 17.
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