Career criminal charged with murder for the second time

Curtis Smith (Source: Ste. Gen. PD)
Curtis Smith (Source: Ste. Gen. PD)
Police say his most recent victim died in a Ste. Genevieve motel room.
Police say his most recent victim died in a Ste. Genevieve motel room.
Kristi Murphy, a former VA nurse, is described by family members as a wonderful caregiver.
Kristi Murphy, a former VA nurse, is described by family members as a wonderful caregiver.

STE. GENEVIEVE, MO (KFVS) - A man who spent most of his life behind bars, may never walk free again.

He did time for killing his fiancee back in the 1980s, and now he's charged with killing again.

52-year-old Curtis Smith is a career criminal.

According to new court documents, he told investigators he has fantasized about killing people and considers himself a dangerous man who doesn't belong on the streets.

Police say his most recent victim died in a Ste. Genevieve motel room.

Kristi Murphy, a former VA nurse, is described by family members as a wonderful caregiver.

They remember her as a giving person, who they say was "too trusting".

On November 17, 2012 at the Microtel Inn and Suites in Ste. Genevieve, there was a report of a suicide.

Kristi Murphy was found dead in the bathtub of room 221.

"We typically investigate any claim of suicide as a homicide until we determine otherwise," said Eric Bennett-Ste. Genevieve Police Chief.

Kristi Murphy wasn't alone in that motel room, her new friend Curtis Smith called 911.

According to the probable cause statement, when officers arrived Smith said, "She hung herself in the bathroom, I had to cut her down."

Smith told police Murphy tied a knot in the shower curtain to hang herself.

"When police got there, there was not a knot and she was found lying on top of the shower curtain," said Carl Kinsky-Ste. Genevieve County Prosecuting Attorney.

According to the probable cause statement, the medical examiner found that Kristi Murphy died of a combination of asphyxia and drug and alcohol intoxication.

The medical examiner's report indicated the doctor, "Had some concerns about her level of consciousness and ability to hang herself."

The report also pointed out Murphy tried to take her own life about a month before her death.

Her cause of death is considered, undetermined.

Investigators believe Curtis Smith strangled Kristi Murphy with a shower curtain, and then staged a suicide.

Nearly three months later, on February 13, 2013, the county prosecutor charged Curtis Smith with first degree murder.

Investigators say they couldn't ignore Smith's record.

"It was a factor for sure, and certainly caught our attention," said Carl Kinsky.

In 1984 in Springfield, Missouri 17-year-old Michelle Hartfiel of Minnesota was murdered in a motel room.

"She was killed in March right before her birthday," said Chuck Hartfiel-Michelle's Brother.

Chuck Hartfiel, of Deltona, Florida, talks about the crime that still haunts his family.

"He snapped-pulled the trigger and shot her in the head," said Hartfiel.

The man arrested for the crime was Curtis Smith.

In 1985 a plea deal was reached.

Curtis Smith pleaded guilty to second degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

However, he would be eligible for parole.

Michelle Hartfiel's parents fought until they died to keep Curtis Smith behind bars.

He got out in 2010.

"We were under the impression after he was sentenced that he wouldn't have gotten out again," said Hartfiel.

In January, Hartfiel's siblings found out Curtis Smith was back behind bars on a drug charge.

While reading a news story at, they learned about the suspicious death of Kristi Murphy.

"It brought back everything," said Linda Nagengast of Brooklyn Center, MN. Linda is Michelle Hartfiel's sister.

"We were like oh my goodness, it's happening all over again," said Nagengast.

"It shouldn't be like this, it should have never happened," said Hartfiel.

According to court documents, several doctors diagnosed Smith with having "homicidal tendencies".

In fact, in October of last year, one month before Kristi Murphy died, Smith reportedly went to a police station saying he wanted to "hurt people", and fantasized about how to do it.

Yet, he continued to walk the streets.

"Our family feels we've been slapped in the face, my sister's life meant nothing in the state of Missouri," said Hartfiel.

Michelle Hartfiel's family will now continue fighting, what has become a lifelong battle.

"We want to make sure this guy gets put away for the rest of his life," said Hartfiel.

Heartland News reached out to the former Greene County Prosecutor, Thomas Mountjoy, who worked the 1984 case.

We wanted to ask why the state agreed to the plea deal of the lesser charge. We haven't heard back from him yet.

Meanwhile, Curtis Smith is currently behind bars in Bonne Terre, MO.

Heartland News has requested an interview with Smith, but we have not been told yet whether that request has been granted or denied.

Smith will be brought to Ste. Genevieve County to face new murder charges on March 5, 2013.

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