[PHOTO CREDIT: iStock / UrchenkoJulie]
[Original Publish Date: 12/25/19]
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LAKE COUNTY, Florida – Instead of a fresh start to 2020, a Umatilla man will have to answer for his past. Steve Mark Smith, 45, is due in a Lake County County courtroom on Jan.6, 2020, to be arraigned on the crime of bigamy.
Acting on a complaint by the ‘original’ Mrs. Smith (and following an investigation), the State Attorney’s Office filed formal charges alleging that, “Steve Mark Smith, having a wife, Jennifer Ann Stone (Smith), who is living, did marry another person, to wit Karin McNeil,” in violation of Florida law “and against the peace and dignity of the State of Florida.” An arrest warrant was issued and Smith turned himself in earlier this month. He is currently on pretrial release, pending the outcome of his felony charge.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, Jennifer Smith contacted the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in February of 2019, and stated she and Smith have been legally married since 2007 and have three children in common. “Mrs. Smith continued advising that her husband, Mr. Smith, is a long-distance driver, and he is gone for weeks at a time. Over time,” the affidavit continues, “her husband, Mr. Smith, stopped sending money, stopped coming home to visit and would only speak to her at times that he decided, not when she wanted to.”
Records reveal that Smith’s wife – who married him in North Carolina – got tipped-off by family members that her husband resided in Lake County, Florida, and had married another woman in July of 2017. According to the affidavit, Jennifer Smith confronted her husband about the bigamous marriage, however he denied that a concurrent marriage had taken place. Once he was tipped off, Steve Smith allegedly divorced Karin McNeil in September of 2018. When interviewed by a LCSO deputy, Smith admitted the bigamous marriage and the follow-up divorce, the affidavit states.
As to Smith’s first wife, she told the investigating deputy that, “due to this incident, she was displaced from her home, and financial burdens took a large toll on the family and the three children. Ultimately causing her to have to move [in] with her parents, due to the lack of funds.”
If convicted, Smith faces up to five years in prison.
James Hope is a Florida Bar Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer who has been practicing criminal law in Tavares, Florida, since 1987. He has also been the Publisher and Executive Editor of Lake Legal News since 2009. He may be contacted at LakeLegalNews@gmail.com, or through his website at www.AttorneyJamesHope.com. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]