Philadelphia

Man Killed Pregnant Girlfriend, Burned Her Body With Friend's Help, Police Say

Police say 23-year-old Justin Smith shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend, Dianna Brice, 21, and later burned her body with the help of his friend, Tylydiah Garnett.

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Police issued an arrest warrant for a man 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. 

On March 30, Dianna Brice, 21, of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, was reported missing. Brice’s mother told police her daughter was last seen getting into a car with her boyfriend, 23-year-old Justin Smith, at the K Laundry on the 500 block of Church Lane in Lansdowne. 

Photo of Justin Smith

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. 

Dianna Brice
Photo supplied by Upper Darby police
Dianna Brice's body was found a week after she went missing.

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

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"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 Saturday morning, according to police. She is charged with arson, criminal conspiracy, use of communication facility, abuse of corpse and other related offenses.

Tylydiah Garnett

Investigators continue to search for Smith but have not yet revealed any possible whereabouts as the investigation continues. 

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. This is someone who literally has a dead woman who is pregnant and she’s loading that body into her car, purchasing the gasoline and then fleeing to Florida after,” 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.

“When someone is given a bail of $75,000, you do not have to pay $75,000 to get out, based upon a rule passed in 2019. God knows why,” Krasner said. “Every single case is subject to ten percent bail. It used to be that most of the cases were subject to ten percent bail but now the judges do not even have the option to say you have to pay the full amount. So now we’re down to $7500 gets you out. And if you go to a bail bondsman, most of them will take one third of that.” 

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