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Thursday, September 22, 2022

Short-time boyfriend charged with Leesburg woman’s murder

Alphonza Bryant
Alphonza Bryant

A person of interest in the shooting death of a Leesburg woman earlier this month was officially charged with her murder on Tuesday.

Alphonza Bryant, 40, of 2113 Aitkin Loop, was already in the Lake County Jail on an unrelated charge when Leesburg police detectives and the State Attorney’s office provided enough evidence to charge him with first-degree premeditated homicide, armed burglary, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the slaying of 37-year-old Melissa Smith.

Smith was found shot to death in the early morning hours of Aug. 8 in the laundry room attached to the house on Penn Street she shared with her mother. Police quickly focused on Bryant, who had been dating Smith for only about a week, as a person of interest. A friend of Smith told investigators that Bryant had angrily left dinner at the home the previous day after a neighbor beat him up over how he treated Smith.

Bryant, who was released from prison last October after serving nearly 20 years for armed robbery, was jailed Aug. 10 for a probation violation related to his arrest in April on a domestic battery charge.

According to a release from the Leesburg Police Department, detectives continue to obtain evidence in the case and no other suspects are being considered.

“We hope these charges allow for some level of healing and relief for the family and friends of Ms. Smith,” the release said. “We would especially like to thank our community for their assistance with this investigation.”

Bryant is being held without bond and will answer to the charges in Lake County Court on Aug. 19.

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