Area residents have placed off flowers at Northwood’s Swensrud Park where Justina Smith was stabbed Monday morning. Smith died from her injuries.
Area residents have placed off flowers at Northwood’s Swensrud Park where Justina Smith was stabbed Monday morning. Smith died from her injuries.

Archived Story

Report: Murder victim was abused before by alleged killer

Published 11:00am Thursday, August 8, 2013

Friends ‘shocked’ by violent death

Tyrone Washington Jr.
Tyrone Washington Jr.

NORTHWOOD — Liz Halloran cried as she looked at the flowers set up around a murder scene, where a couple feet away there were still muddy tire tracks from the Monday incident.

She said she was shocked and angry that her friend and co-worker, Justina Marie Smith, was allegedly stabbed to death.

“She was a great lady, a great mom,” Halloran said. “She was easy to get along with and had a lot of hopes and dreams.”

The 30-year-old Northwood woman, who died Monday after she was stabbed in Swensrud Park, was allegedly assaulted and strangled last month by the same man who is suspected of killing her.

After an attack on July 6, a Worth County District Court judge issued an order of protection for Smith against her live-in boyfriend, Tyrone Washington Jr., 39. Washington was ordered to stay at least 1,000 feet away from Smith, her two children, and her home and workplace, according to court documents.

On July 29, Smith asked for the restraining order to be lifted, but on Aug. 2 she asked that it be reinstated.

“I feel like he has a lot of issues and will not stop harassing me,” she wrote to the court. “I feel that it is in the best interest of my family at this time to have a restraining order on him.”

Smith died Monday after what an autopsy has described as multiple sharp-force injuries, and Washington has been charged with first-degree murder. Iowa State Patrol troopers arrested Washington in Scott County, Iowa, Monday afternoon after he allegedly stabbed Smith in the Northwood park and then fled the scene and took her car, a silver 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Washington was spotted on Interstate 80 in Cedar County before allegedly leading police on a high-speed chase ending near Davenport, Iowa, in Scott County, where he reportedly drove through corn and soybean fields along the interstate. He faces several other charges related to the pursuit.

Police tape marks off one of the entrances to Swensrud Park Monday afternoon as two Worth County Sheriff’s Office deputies talk near their cars. --Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune
Police tape marks off one of the entrances to Swensrud Park Monday afternoon as two Worth County Sheriff’s Office deputies talk near their cars. –Sarah Stultz/newsroom@austindailyherald.com

A rocky relationship

Authorities have stated Washington lived in Mason City, but according to court documents, he lived with Smith within the last month at the Schoolside Apartments, 607 Seventh St. N. in Northwood.

He listed this as his address when applying for a public defender to represent him in July. Halloran, a co-worker of Smith’s at Burger King, said Smith and Washington had been seeing each other for several months.

Worth County Sheriff’s Office deputies received a 911 call on July 6, when Smith told police she and Washington were arguing and Tyrone “got in her face.” When he did this, she tried to push him back, and he allegedly “grabbed her by the throat and threw her on the bed and began to choke her,” court reports stated. He also allegedly hit Smith in the mouth and on the side of her head.

In addition to the domestic assault charge, he was charged with resisting arrest and interference with official acts.

On July 29, Smith submitted a request to the judge that her no contact order against Washington be terminated. She also requested the charges against him be dropped.

“Tyrone is not a threat to me or my family,” she wrote. “This was the only fight we had that he put his hands on me.”

She wrote that she loved him and knew he loved her, too. Washington was charged with violating the no contact order on Aug. 1, but that charge was ultimately dismissed. On Aug. 2, Smith submitted another letter asking if she could keep the restraining order, according to court documents.

A community shocked

Friends and family of Smith gathered throughout the day Wednesday in Swensrud Park, leaving flowers and other items around the tree at the murder scene.

“I’m still shocked,” said Sarah Hilsenhoff, whose children had played with Smith’s children. “How could somebody take somebody so sweet out of this world?”

Hilsenhoff said she and her family moved from the Twin Cities to Northwood about a year ago hoping it would be a better life.

“Living in the Cities, this was common,” she said. “We thought our children would be safe down here.”

Halloran said she had known Smith for about five years through employment at Burger King, near Diamond Jo Casino. Washington had also worked there.

She said Smith had left Burger King to work at Casey’s, but she had recently returned to the fast-food restaurant.

“She was just at my house on Saturday,” Halloran said. “We were supposed to tan today.”

Smith’s memorial service is 3 p.m. Saturday at First Lutheran Church, 309 N. Ninth St., Northwood. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Conner Colonial Chapel, 1008 S. First Ave., Northwood.


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