Stephen Michael Smith
Photo: Georgia Department of Corrections
Photo: Georgia Department of Corrections

Escaped Georgia inmate kills himself as Florida authorities close in, officials say

An escaped Georgia inmate who was wanted in connection with a Florida homicide is dead, authorities said Wednesday morning.

Late Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals Service Task Force and Gulf County Sheriff’s Office deputies spotted Stephen Michael Smith in a vehicle traveling west on U.S. 98 in Gulf County, Fla., the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. 

Officers stopped the vehicle at the intersection of Ivy Road and U.S. 98 in Parker, which is in nearby Bay County.

“With the vehicle surrounded by law enforcement, Smith immediately placed a pistol to his head and committed suicide,” sheriff’s Capt. Chris Buchanan said in the Facebook post.

The Bay County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation into the incident.

Smith, 34, was identified as a suspect in the death of 30-year-old Daniel Lee Upton of Lakeland, Fla. Upton was discovered shot Monday morning in Gulf County, a sparsely populated area in the Florida Panhandle.

Four days earlier, Smith was reported missing from his Clayton County transitional center after he did not return from work. The Georgia Department of Corrections issued a lookout Tuesday afternoon, and a $10,000 reward was offered for his capture.


 

Authorities have also arrested Destiny Jene Terry, 44, in connection with Upton’s death. 

Upton was still conscious when officers arrived around 10 a.m. Monday at a home on Sea Pines Lane, which is located yards from the beachfront in Port St. Joe, according to Gulf County sheriff’s officials.

“The victim, prior to losing consciousness, identified Smith as the shooter and Terry as being present,” officials said in a news release.

Destiny Jene Terry
Photo: Gulf County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office

Investigators believe Terry “helped facilitate the contact between Smith and Upton.” She is facing charges of second-degree murder and remains jailed in Gulf County. 

In the 24 hours following the shooting, authorities cast a wide net to track Smith down. They alerted authorities in Troup County that the LaGrange native may be headed there. Smith was serving a 10-year sentence for robbery out of Troup County, according to state prison records.

— Please return to AJC.com for updates. 

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