BLOOMINGTON — The death of a disabled Normal man during a kidnapping and robbery amounted to “an extra special type of evil,” a prosecutor said Tuesday at the sentencing hearing for Danny Smith Jr. on murder charges.

Smith, 30, of Peoria was sentenced to 48 years.

He pleaded guilty to felony murder in the December 2016 death of Maunds Bryant. The 41-year-old victim suffered from ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a condition that left him unable to walk or speak, according to a victim impact statement read by his sister, Juanita Bryant.

Smith forced his way into the home where Bryant lived with his mother, Carmelita Magsby, and stepfather, Ray Magsby, on Normal's north side. The victim fell inside the home before he and his stepfather were taken at gunpoint  by Smith to Carmelita Magsby's vehicle.

Smith drove the men to a home in Peoria. Magsby managed to escape from the residence and summon help. Smith was arrested as he fled from police.

The victim died in a Peoria hospital on Christmas Day 2016.

In a lengthy and emotional statement, Bryant shared memories of her older brother, affectionately known as “Fats” by relatives. Writing the statement and contemplating its delivery in front of her brother’s assailant was difficult, Bryant admitted, because of the anger that still filled her heart 696 days after the kidnapping.

Other family members who took the majority of seats in the courtroom cried as Bryant described her brother as a man with a heart of gold, determined to fight ALS.

Bryant confronted Smith on the most painful consequences of his plan to kidnap the two men and hold them until ransom demands were met.

“You forced my mother to put her only son in her own car and watch as you drive him away,” said Bryant. She said she forgave Smith and hopes “one day you will be man enough to be honest and tell the truth” about others who were involved in the plot to collect a ransom from lottery winnings the family had received.

In a statement read by a family advocate for the state, the victim’s mother told Smith, “You messed me up for a long time and I will never be the same.” According to the statement, Magsby did not know Smith before he broke into her home.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jacob Harlow asked for 58 years in prison for Smith, arguing that the trauma of a home invasion and kidnapping “sounds like something, frankly, out of a horror movie.”

For the family, the horror goes on, said the prosecutor, as they try to escape visions of “malignant creatures lurking in the shadows, waiting to prey on the good fortunes of others.”

The victim’s death as “a captive, bleeding on a basement floor” could have been avoided after Smith became aware during the incident that Bryant was disabled, said Harlow, “but he chose to compound evil with more evil.”

After the sentencing, Harlow said "hopefully the sentence will help the family find closure in what has been a difficult time in their lives."

Defense lawyer Jennifer Patton asked for a sentence between 20 and 25 years. A report from a defense expert compiled after a review of autopsy results indicates that respiratory issues, likely linked to ALS, caused Bryant’s death. Smith intended to kidnap and rob Bryant the family, not kill them, said Patton.

In his statement to Judge Casey Costigan, Smith echoed his lawyer’s comments.

“My judgement was wrong, but I’m not a murderer,” said Smith.

Smith acknowledged that words were inadequate to express his regrets to the family.

“I’m so sorry from the deepest part of my heart,” said Smith, adding that, “I’m guilty ... my actions caused his death.”

In imposing the sentence, the judge said it was unreasonable to think Smith did not understand the extent of Bryant’s condition when he took the victim from his home. In fashioning a sentence, the court considers a defendant’s potential for rehabilitation, said Costigan, “but the court also considers your actions.”

As part of the plea agreement, Smith was ordered to pay $12,962 restitution to the victim’s family.

Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny

McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.

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