Suspect charged with murder in Leesburg woman’s shooting death

LEESBURG, Fla. — Two weeks after a woman was found shot to death in the laundry room of her Leesburg home, police have charged the man who they say pulled the trigger.


Leesburg police responded to the home on Penn Street just after 2:30 a.m. on August 8 after someone called to report that a woman was dead.

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Officers arrived to find 37-year-old Melissa K. Smith in her laundry room dead from an apparent gunshot wound.

Two days later, police arrested 40-year-old Alphonza Bryant for a probation violation stemming from an unrelated battery arrest earlier this year. They confirmed at the time that Bryant was also a “person of interest” in Smith’s murder, but they hadn’t yet gathered enough information to charge anyone.

On Tuesday, police announced they’d gathered that information and had enough evidence to officially charge Bryant with Melissa K. Smith’s murder.

They presented a warrant to the jail where Bryant was being held on no bond, charging him with premeditated homicide, armed burglary, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

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“We hope these charges allow for some level of healing and relief for the family and friends of Ms. Smith,” a sheriff’s office spokesperson said in a statement announcing the charges. “We would especially like to thank our community for their assistance with this investigation.”

Before the murder, records show that Bryant had just been released from state prison in October after serving nearly 20 years for an armed robbery.

Friends of the Smith say she didn’t deserve to be shot. They describe her as a person who liked to help people in need, often offering food or a place to sleep.

On August 8, Smith’s friends say Bryant, who she had been dating briefly, angrily left a dinner at the home after a neighbor beat him up because of how he treated Smith.

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Police say no other suspects are being considered in the case.

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