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Flora Police: Man robbed, beaten to death after driving to meet woman from dating app

Suspects accused of setting man up through app
Willie Lee Smith Jr. 2.jpg
Posted at 1:21 AM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 05:21:31-04

FLORA — A warning from a heartbroken family about the dangers of meeting people online.

Tyrone Leftridge, 22, and Shianne Brooks-Brown, 24, are facing robbery and murder charges after Flora police said they contacted Willie Lee Smith Jr., 55, through a dating app, before robbing and beating him to death.

“I actually took Sade' on a trip to Mexico for her graduation present,” said Jannette Smith, Willie’s daughter.

What was supposed to be a week long graduation celebration in Mexico, was cut short for Jannette and Sade Smith.

“We got there on Tuesday evening and Thursday morning, I received a phone call around four in the morning asking my name and to confirm who Will is,” Jannette said.

Willie Lee Smith Jr. 1 .jpg

Their father was found unconscious on Wednesday on East Clem Street in Flora, according to the Flora Police Department. He was flown to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where he died on Friday.

"I just assumed since he had kidney failure, that his kidney failed again. So that's what I thought the call was about and then she told me that he was attacked and hit in the head, someone needs to come,” Jannette said.

As other family members rushed to Willie's side, Jannette and Sade quickly learned that their father was on his death bed.

Police told the daughters that Willie drove to Flora to meet a woman he had met on a dating app, then investigators said he was robbed for $120 and beaten to death.

"The story I got from police is that he got out of the car to meet with the lady. That's when he was hit on the head with a bat. He laid in the driveway and stumbled into the neighbor’s house and laid on their couch,” Sade' said.

"I want the truth and I want everyone involved to pay for what they did,” Jannette added.

Jannette and Sade remember the last time they saw their dad around Mother’s Day. They said his bubbly spirit just brightened their day, not knowing that would be their last time.

"I have an 8-year-old. Willie has a granddaughter who I can't even explain to her what's going on. It would be one thing to say that he was really sick, and his body couldn't handle it anymore and he died. But to tell her he was, I can't tell her this,” Jannette said.

Smith's daughters said that their father did not deserve this. And as they fight for justice, they hope that his story will bring awareness to some of the dangers associated with online dating.

"People are crazy and you never know what someone is thinking or what their intentions are. I know that we are in a pandemic right now, but I still believe in meeting people the old-fashioned way. You just never know what people are up to,” Jannette said.

A jury trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 20.

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