New Rochelle man to serve 20 years for afternoon stabbing death

A New Rochelle man was sentenced to 20 years in state prison today for the brazen midday slaying of a rival in downtown New Rochelle last year.

The sentence for 21-year-old Laurell Smith (left) was five years less than the maximum for first-degree manslaughter, the felony charge that he was convicted of in June.

Smith fatally stabbed Kevin Williams on Sept. 18, as he was walking along on North Avenue with his uncle at 2:30 p.m. Smith yelled at Williams from an apartment window, and the two began arguing. Smith, who was already on probation, ran out of the apartment building and confronted Williams on the street, asking him at one point if he was scared. Williams reportedly replied, “No, I’m not scared.”

Smith then pulled an 8-inch knife from his waistband and forced it into the left side of Williams’ abdomen, stopping an inch from his right kidney, prosecutors said. Williams died an hour later at Sound Shore Medical Center.

Smith was charged with second-degree murder, but a jury acquitted him after his lawyer argued that Smith only wanted to hurt Williams, not kill him. The murder charge carried a life sentence.

Smith also was sentenced to serve one to three years in prison for violating his probation by committing another crime. The sentence will run concurrently, or at the same time as his manslaughter sentence, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.

Williams’ aunt, who spoke briefly at the sentencing, told Smith that she hoped God would forgive him for killing her nephew.

Two of Smith’s accomplices pleaded guilty to their role in trying to cover up the attack and protect Smith. Rico Johnson, 20, and Krista Leggieri, 18, pleaded guilty in March to second-degree hindering prosecution and evidence tampering, felonies, for helping to hide Smith’s clothes and the knife. Johnson was sentenced to five years’ probation, with four months in the Westchester County jail. Leggieri was sentenced as a youthful offender; her file has been sealed.

Westchester County Judge Barry Warhit sentenced all three defendants in the case.