Crime & Courts

State will not seek death penalty against Bianca Tanner’s boyfriend

Prosecutors have announced they will not seek the death penalty against Angelo Smith, the boyfriend and accused killer of teacher Bianca Tanner.

Smith, who appeared in court Thursday morning, was charged with first-degree murder on July 3 after Tanner’s body was discovered in southwest Charlotte, in a wooded area near Westinghouse Boulevard.

Meghan Cooke, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said afterward that prosecutors could not discuss why they did not seek the death penalty against Smith because it would require the release of details in the case, violating ethical obligations.

At the time of Smith’s arrest, police would not say whether the 30-year-old had confessed to the crime. As he was taken away, Smith told reporters “I’m sorry” when asked what he’d say to Tanner’s family.

Smith reported Tanner’s disappearance in June, 10 days after the 31-year-old teacher from Greensboro moved to Charlotte with her 3-year-old son.

According to a search warrant, the boy told police that Smith had struck Tanner with a belt and “hurt Mommy in the face.”

Smith told police the two had argued and Tanner left the apartment on Druid Circle in north Charlotte, about 18 miles north of where the body was found.

Court records show that in 2004 Smith was charged with simple assault and burning a schoolhouse. Seven years later, he was charged with assault on a woman. All charges were dismissed.

In 2011, a former wife filed a restraining order against Smith after she said he caused her “extreme emotional distress and bodily harm.” A former girlfriend had done the same four years earlier. She told authorities that Smith became angry when he spilled juice on the carpet and she refused to clean it up. She said he pulled her from a pool by her hair, dragged her onto cement and threw her over a gate.

Death penalty cases have become less common in North Carolina and around the country.

The state has not executed anyone since 2006, when a series of lawsuits challenged the fairness and humanity of the state-sponsored capital sentences.

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray says he reserves the death penalty for crimes that “shock the conscience of the community.”

A county jury has not put a convicted murderer on death row since 2009. A Mecklenburg inmate has not been executed since 2005.

The last two capital murder cases in the county ended in convictions, but the juries sentenced the killers to life in prison without parole rather than to death row. A death penalty case is underway now in Mecklenburg Superior Court. Demarcus Ivey is charged with murder and robbery in connection with a 2009 shooting death at a west Charlotte strip club.