FBI Joins Search for Man Accused of Killing Pregnant Girlfriend

Police say 23-year-old Justin Smith shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend, Dianna Brice

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As the search for a murder suspect accused of shooting and killing his pregnant girlfriend and with the help of a friend, loading her body in a car which he later set on fire continues, the FBI is asking for help tracking down the man who is considered "armed and dangerous."

Justin Smith, 23, faces murder, murder of an unborn child, arson, abuse of a corpse, evidence tampering and weapons charges in the death of 21-year-old Dianna Brice, according to a flyer distributed by the FBI Monday.

Justin Smith in a 2019 photo
Justin Smith in a 2019 photo

The FBI is assisting Philadelphia police in the search, which covers states up and down the East Coast.

"Smith is known to have connections to Greensboro, North Carolina, and New Castle, Delaware," the FBI said in its flyer. "He has also been seen in the Little Haiti
neighborhood of Miami, Florida, and in Atlanta, Georgia."

The FBI is offering a cash reward for information leading to Smith, who "should be considered armed and dangerous."

The FBI asked anyone who has info on Smith's whereabouts should contact their local FBI office or nearest American embassy or consulate. Tips can also be submitted anonymously online.

Brice, of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, was reported missing on March 30. Brice’s mother told police her daughter was last seen getting into a car with her boyfriend, Smith, at the K Laundry on the 500 block of Church Lane in Lansdowne. 

Brice told her mother she was going with Smith to pick up a daily medication she needed for a serious medical condition. She later told her that they were driving to Philadelphia. Brice’s mother said that was the last she heard from her daughter. 

Hours later, Brice’s mother contacted Smith who told her Brice took off on foot after an argument, investigators said. 

"She calls him, and he was like, 'Oh yeah, me and her was arguing.' And she got out at 57th and Springfield," Brice’s father, who did not want to be identified, told NBC10. "First of all, as a man, if that's my lady and she pregnant, I'm not letting you out of the car. And if I do, I'm going to follow you and I'm going to call either your brother or sister or somebody to tell them to come and get you."

Police began tracking Brice and Smith and determined they were in the West Philadelphia area. On April 5, investigators found Brice’s body in the area of 5800 Eastwick Avenue. They also found Smith's car which had been set on fire near Florence Avenue and 59th Street – that’s a little more than one mile from where the body was found.

After further investigation, police determined Smith had shot Brice multiple times in the head, killing her. Shortly after, Smith’s friend, Tylydiah Garnett, arrived, according to police. Investigators said Garnett was captured on surveillance video buying gasoline before taking it to a garage that Smith either owned or rented. The two then loaded Brice’s body into the trunk of a car and drove it to Florence Avenue and 59th Street where they set the vehicle on fire, investigators said. 

Garnett then fled to Miami, Florida, before she was later arrested, according to police. She was charged with arson, criminal conspiracy, use of communication facility, abuse of corpse and other related offenses.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said they had asked that Garnett be held without bail, calling her a flight risk, but her bail was set at $75,000 which she eventually posted. 

“It’s unacceptable,” Chesley Lightsey, the Chief of the District Attorney's Office Homicide-Non Fatal Unit, said. 

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Garnett’s release was the result of the failure of the current cash bail system.

Garnett's attorney, C. Reginald (Reggie) Johnson, said he is "zealously" representing his client who face a preliminary hearing next month. He said his client "didn't commit a murder" and would cooperate with investigators to the extent she could.

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