• U.S.

Crime: Etta Smith’s Fatal Vision

2 minute read
TIME

For Etta Louise Smith, the nightmare began shortly before Christmas 1980, when she claims to have had a vision of something white, covered by brush. A Lockheed aerospace worker in Burbank, Calif., Smith does not consider herself a psychic. Yet after she heard radio reports about Nurse Melanie Uribe, 31, who had vanished on her way to work, Smith was convinced she knew where the body could be found. She took her information to the police, who put her off.

Smith then organized a search with two of her young children and a 20-year- old niece. In remote Lopez Canyon, 18 miles north of Los Angeles, her daughter spotted a white heap that turned out to be Uribe — robbed, raped and beaten to death. Smith told police of her discovery and was arrested for the murder.

While she was held in jail for four days, the killers — three men with prior arrest records — turned up. Smith, 39, filed a suit for false arrest. Last week Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joel Rudof ruled that despite Smith’s detailed account of the murder of a woman she never knew or saw, police did not have probable cause to lock her up. Smith’s attorney has asked for $750,000 in damages; the jury’s verdict is expected this week.

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