December 31, 2011

Michigan man may have intentionally infected hundreds with HIV

12-31-2011 Michigan:

Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET: David Dean Smith's attorney, Richard E. Zambon of Grand Rapids, tells that he plans on "exploring all options" in defending Smith, saying specifically that "I am concerned about his mental health."

Zambon said he hadn't yet seen all of the police and medical records in the case and couldn't talk about specifics, but he said the law under which Smith was charged is a "relatively new statute with not many cases having interpreted" it, meaning few court precedents have been established.

Original post: A Michigan man has been charged with felony sex offenses after he told police he was HIV-positive and had set out to intentionally infect as many people as he could, police said. Health officials have issued an alert warning that "possibly hundreds of people have been exposed to HIV."

The man, identified as David Dean Smith, 51, of Comstock Park, north of Grand Rapids, was arraigned Wednesday on a second count of "AIDS-sexual penetration with an uninformed partner" after police said they had identified a second possible victim.

Smith was initially charged with one count after he went to Grand Rapids police last week and said he had intentionally had unprotected sex with as many people as he could over the last three years, according to police.

According to documents on file with Grand Rapids 61st District Court, Smith claimed to have had sex with "thousands" of partners, intending to kill them by infecting them with HIV. Some of those people are from outside the Grand Rapids area, including people Smith met over the Internet, he told police, according to documents.

Smith faces separate preliminary hearings on the two charges on Jan. 4 and Jan. 9. He remains in the Kent County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond. Smith's attorney did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The Kent County Health Department issued an alert Tuesday warning that "hundreds of people may have been exposed to HIV," urging potential victims to come forward and encouraging everyone who may have concerns to be tested for HIV.

Vitals: AIDS discovery could put virus on the run, bioethicist says

One of the two possible victims police say they have found so far said in an interview with NBC station WOOD-TV of Grand Rapids that she was diagnosed with HIV in October 2008.

The woman, whom authorities and NBC News are not identifying, said she knew immediately that it was Smith — whom she said she met through an ad on the Yahoo! Personals website — who had infected her. She called him "a predator" and "a sociopath."

The woman said Smith sent her a text message letting her know that he was going to surrender to police. The message read: "Turning myself into the law, my life is over. Take care. Always love you."

"It's something he should have done years ago," she said. "He shouldn't get a pat on the head for what he did."

Smith said at his arraignment Wednesday that he has been undergoing counseling. Court documents show that Smith was admitted to Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services recently because he was "suicidal" and had tried to kill himself at least once.

The records say the hospital determined that Smith is "sexually aroused by causing pain to females."

A Facebook page with Smith's name, address and pictures says he graduated from Harry Hill High School in Lansing in 1978 and studied at the University of Phoenix, a for-profit online institution. It shows that he has worked in telecommunications for several companies.

Posts to the account stopped on Nov. 30. Before then, the account owner posted some messages that could possibly be interpreted as alluding to his situation.

"Someone special to me asked me a question about scandulous people, this was my thought," he wrote on Nov. 5. "Let me know what ya think. When you are young you believe people will love you like you want and keep an eye out for those scandulous you get older you realize most everyone is scandulous so you dont trust anyone but keep an eye out for the special ones that truley care."

A day earlier, this message appeared:

"I pray for blessings to all I know, for forgiveness for my shortcommings to them and that they may no peace. And last, that I love them all as much as I can."

For the remainder of this story: by M. Alex Johnson

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