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Akron family fights to keep loved one's killer behind bars

akron murder
Posted at 6:20 PM, Dec 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-14 20:01:18-05

AKRON, Ohio — Two decades later, an Akron family is reliving the trauma of losing their loved one as they fight to keep her killer behind bars.

For Ulius Landrum, her daughter Selena Holmes and her husband Vincent Benson, they are reliving the pain of losing, Lilius Landrum. A sister, aunt and friend that went by the nickname, “Friggy,” because when she was little, she was always getting in the refrigerator.

“She was a loving, kind, sweet, beautiful person that prayed a lot,” said Lilius’s sister, Ulius Landrum.

Now, the family is fighting to keep Lilius’s killer, Tony Smith, behind bars.

“I think he should be in there forever,” said Benson, Lilius’s brother-in-law.

Lilius lost her life in 1998. She was a young actress, and met Tony Smith during her prison ministry.

“She just started writing him and they met and she brought him into the community,” said Ulius.

Soon Lilius and Tony would move in together and her brother-in-law Benson, would get a phone call he would never forget.

“I was at home and her father; Julius Landrum called and told me what happened. He had gone to the house, and he actually saw his daughter's gruesome murder,” said Benson.

Lilius was found dead and her body dismembered in the basement of the duplex she lived in with Tony.

“Just unbelievable. That you could really trust someone and believe them, believe in them and promote them the way she did and to have that happen,” said Ulius.

In December 1998, Smith pleaded guilty to murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with possible parole at 15 years.

“This case was one of the most gruesome murders that this office has ever prosecuted,” said Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh.

While in prison, he wrote the family two letters; one typed and one handwritten.

“For me it was very difficult—to actually see a handwritten letter and to be feeling that in that he actually sat down and wrote with the hands that had slaughtered her,” Ulius said.

But for the family it wasn't nearly enough

“There is no apology.” Ulius continued, “He says I can't bring her back and it doesn't do any good to say why it happened.”

They fought his parole once , getting a 10-year extension, and they are fighting it again and hoping for the same.

“Because he is going up for parole, we have to keep taking the band aid off and keep going through this every time,” Ulius said.

“You know, unfortunately, our only option right now is to just fight like crazy,” Walsh said.

Ulius said her family will keep fighting to keep Smith behind bars for as long as they can, and they will make sure the next generations do the same.

They have a Facebook page called “Stop the Release of Tony Rahmel Smith." People can also fill out a form for the parole board and they can weigh in on theboard’s website, with comments due by Wednesday.

The hearing is on Dec. 21. If Smith is given parole, the prosecutor does have the ability to object and request a full board hearing.

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