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Smith pleads guilty in Walmart murder
Stephanie Maria Rodriguez appears in court July 13. - photo by Mariya Lewter

Brandon Shawn Smith entered a guilty plea in front of Judge W. Kendall Wynne, Jr. on Wednesday in the Newton County Judicial Court.

Smith, along with Stephanie Maria Rodriguez, was charged with malice and felony murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated assault in connection with the murder of Marsha Johnson of Covington on Nov. 16, 2015. [See story here.]

As a result of the negotiated plea, Smith was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus 20 years. After the reading of several impact statements from family members of the victim, Smith stated he hoped the Johnson family could one day forgive him.

The court ordered a mental evaluation of Rodriguez for competency and criminal responsibility prior to going to trial.
Smith and Rodriguez were arrested in Manchester, Tennessee after police issued an all-points bulletin and video of the couple. While Johnson, 65, was leaving the Walmart on Industrial Blvd in Covington, Smith tried to grab her purse. Johnson fought back and was then dragged away from her car and was struck and kicked.

According to Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom, Smith then supposedly jumped into his car and backed over the victim, who was sitting behind his vehicle, and then ran over her an additional two times. The incident was captured on surveillance video. [See story here.]

Rodriguez, who is originally from New Mexico, and Smith, from Virginia, are thought to be responsible for a several violent purse snatchings in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.