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Convicted Knoxville rapist, serial predator loses bid to toss criminal convictions

Larry Lee Smith, 60, challenged his guilty verdicts from a 2013 rape and kidnapping trial.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A convicted Knoxville sex offender and suspected killer didn't get bad representation at trial and doesn't merit help from the court system, a Knox County Criminal Court judge has ruled.

Larry Lee Smith, 60, who authorities say has preyed on women for 40 years, filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction in Knox County on counts of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape.

He argued he was poorly represented and unjustly treated during his 2013 trial. Smith was accused of entrapping a young Georgia woman in his room in October 2011 at a Dale Avenue flophouse and raping her.

Smith, who has a history of sex crimes against women, testified on his own behalf during the 2013 trial and suggested to the jury he'd never been convicted of a felony. That opened the door for Knox County prosecutors to challenge, or impeach, his truthfulness, revealing that in fact he had been previously convicted of felonies.

During a hearing in September, Knox County Criminal Court Judge Kyle Hixson considered Smith's request for a review of the original trial. Hixson said Smith was his own worst enemy when he took the stand in 2013.

"In short, the petitioner's testimony was disastrous for his case, even in the absence of any mention of his prior felony record," Hixson wrote in denying Smith's bid for post-conviction relief.

The judge found that Smith's lawyer had met with him multiple times before the trial and had discussed trial strategy. But defense attorney Mitch Harper wasn't responsible for warning Smith not to lie on the stand, the judge noted, as he did when he implied he didn't have a felony record.

Smith, in fact, ended up "freelancing" at times when he took the stand and faced cross-examination from prosecutor Leslie Nassios, the court noted.

Credit: WBIR
Judge Kyle Hixson

"It is his fault, not counsel's, that he disingenuously minimized his prior criminal history to the jury," Hixson wrote. "He has failed to establish that counsel's performance was deficient. He is not entitled to relief."

Police have said Smith is a serial liar as well as a serial predator. WBIR has reported about him as part of its "Appalachian Unsolved" crime series.

Veteran Knoxville investigators think he kidnapped and killed 15-year-old Michelle Anderson, a Fulton High School student, in January 1987. He was the last person known to be with her and had promised to giver her a ride home after partying with her.

Anderson's remains were found two years later in Cumberland County woods.

Credit: Submitted
Michelle Denise Anderson, age 15

Smith has not been charged with killing Anderson.

At age 20 in July 1981, authorities say he raped a 14-year-old girl in his Tampa Bay, Fla., area apartment. He served several years in a Florida prison for the crime.

In October 1989, he kidnapped and tried to assault an 18-year-old woman who was having car problems in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Smith was convicted of kidnapping and assault in the Stone Mountain incident. Because of his Florida conviction, he got a 20-year prison sentence.

After getting out of the Georgia prison, he returned to Knoxville.

He is serving a sentence of life in prison without the chance for parole at Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tenn., because of the 2011 Knoxville rape and kidnapping.