A Charlotte man was sentenced Thursday to spend the rest of his life in prison after he pleaded guilty to raping his wife and kiling her mother and stepfather.
Vurnel Lee Smith Jr., 43, was given two consecutive life sentences without parole, plus an additional 240-300 months. He pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree rape.
Smith was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin. Prosecutors initially had sought the death penalty but agreed to accept Smith’s guilty plea in exchange for him serving life in prison.
Smith’s wife, whose identity is being protected because she is a victim of sexual assault, spoke at the hearing, “describing how this trauma has affected her life,” the office of District Attorney Spencer B. Merriweather III said in a statement.
“She shared memories of her parents watching football together and their love of God,” the statement said. “Our thoughts remain with the survivor and her entire family.”
According to prosecutors, in July 2017, Smith was kicked out of a northeast Charlotte home he shared with his wife, her mother and stepfather because of abusive behavior toward his wife.
Two weeks later, his wife returned home from work to find that Smith had broken into the house. He attacked her with a metal pole, and she ran to the door, screaming for help, but Smith pulled her back inside, prosecutors alleged.
Smith knocked his wife unconscious, and she awoke to find herself tied to a bed. Over the next two days, Smith repeatedly raped his wife, according to the D.A.’s statement.
The woman was able to slip out of her constraints after Smith left the home, telling his wife he was going to buy camping equipment to live in the woods. That’s when the woman discovered that her mother, 65-year-old Jacquline White-Gordon, was dead in another bedroom.
The woman drove herself to a hospital in her stepfather’s car.
When police arrived at the home, they found blood but no sign of the stepfather, 69-year-old Rufus Gordon, whose body was later found in the trunk of the car the woman had driven to the hospital.
A medical examiner ruled that the mother and stepfather had both died of strangulation. They also suffered other injuries.
The D.A.’s statement said Smith’s guilty plea “ensures that a man who committed appalling violence will never again walk our streets and provides finality such that the family can continue the healing process.”