East Naples man avoids life in prison by pleading to molesting girls

Wayne David Smith

Wayne David Smith

A 57-year-old East Naples man who faced the possibility of nine life terms in prison averted a jury trial Wednesday by pleading no contest to molesting two young girls in the 1980s.

Wayne David Smith, of Skyway Drive, pleaded to two counts of lewd fondling and was sentenced by Collier Circuit Judge Frank Baker to two years in a state prison followed by four years of sex-offender probation.

Smith, who builds airplanes for a living, was charged with nine counts of sexual battery involving a victim less than 12 years old, a first-degree felony punishable by a maximum of life in prison. But Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca amended the charges as part of a plea agreement negotiated with defense attorney Jerry Berry.

The case is unusual because it originally involved six victims as young as 3 years old, including a woman who came forward to say she’d forgotten she’d been molested when she was 9 years old — about 20 years ago. Others didn’t make their allegations public until 2006, many years later.

The charges Smith pleaded to are second-degree felonies under old statutes that existed in the 1980s, when the crimes occurred. They carry 15-year maximum terms.

Smith said little except to agree he was waiving his rights to a trial and Baker didn’t impose the sentence until the women, who are in their 30s, told him they agreed with the plea bargain and wanted to put the case behind them. One was 11 when she said it occurred, while the other said she was molested between ages 6 and 10.

“This is a plea agreement in which the victims agreed to resolve the case because they’ve been through a lot and they didn’t want to testify in court,” Maresca said after sentencing. “They wanted to move on with their lives.”

The mother of two women who said they were molested denied Smith's contentions that they filed the charges to get $32 million they believe he has stashed in the Cayman Islands, money they hoped to win in a lawsuit.

"For my daughters, it was never about the money," said the mother, whose name is being withheld due to the sexual nature of the case. "My daughters received no justice."

Berry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Smith had been free after posting $600,000 bond on March 14, 2006, and was ordered to wear an ankle monitor. He’d been arrested Feb. 10, 2006, when Collier County Sheriff’s deputies said the charges involved a multi-generational case with related victims, meaning women allegedly molested years ago and recent allegations involving their children. That year, a fifth woman pressed charges.

Deputies here were contacted in January 2006 by the Salt Lake City Police Department about a molestation case that occurred here decades ago. The woman said she’d been molested by Smith when she was young and now her 5-year-old daughter just told her Smith makes her touch his private parts.

Smith’s son, David Smith, 36, of Golden Gate Estates and a citizen of the Cayman Islands, also was charged with molesting girls, often at the family’s now-defunct business, Better Blossom Nursery in East Naples.

It was a trial with allegations of sex and millions of dollars. The prosecution called it a family secret involving sex between relatives, while the defense contended one of the two relatives claimed she’d been molested by the two men up to 14 years ago just to get her hands on $32 million and better her chances at winning her lawsuit against them.

In May, a Collier Circuit jury acquitted David Smith, a father of five, who walked out a free man after facing life in prison on two counts of capital sexual battery.

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