Jessica Smith sentenced to life in prison

A judge sentenced Jessica Smith to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years for killing her 2-year-old and slashing her teenage daughter in a Cannon Beach motel in 2014.

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith

As Smith leaned her fate in a Portland courtroom Aug. 25, Judge Julie Frantz said there is zero chance of reducing her prison term for things like good behavior.

Clatsop County Prosecutor Josh Marquis said the prosecution reached a plea agreement, instead of seeking the death penalty, because cases involving capital punishment take a long time – which would be painful for the family. He added they also wanted to avoid forcing Smith’s teenage daughter to testify about her mother attempting to kill her.

Officials said the murder was set into play as Smith and her husband were going through a divorce. Smith drove her children to the Surfsand Motel in Cannon Beach before her estranged spouse prepared to gain custody of the children.

Motel housekeepers tried to enter Smith’s room with a master key card around 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 1, 2014. A voice inside the room told them to go away, according to court records.

Reports state police had to gain entry because motel staff could only open the door a few inches due to the sliding deadbolt. That’s when officers found the murdered toddler and Smith’s teenage daughter clinging to life. She was airlifted to a Portland-area hospital for treatment of severe cuts.

The toddler had drowned, but reports show a sedating drug was a contributing factor in her death.

Smith was not in the motel room at the time. She was arrested days later when the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River located her on a logging road in a dense forested area 15 miles from Cannon Beach.

Officials said the toddler’s 13-year-old sister was not charged in the death, even though it appears she helped her mother.

At a pre-trial hearing earlier this summer, prosecutors showed footage of investigators interviewing Smith when she was arrested. In the video, Smith said she intended to “drown her (daughter) and her misery.”