The Journal spent six months re-examining the attack at the Silk Plant Forest on Dec. 9, 1995, the police investigation of the crime, and the prosecution and conviction of Kalvin Michael Smith. Jill Marker was an assistant manager at the artificial-plant store in the Silas Creek Crossing shopping center at the time of the attack. This report is based on hundreds of pages of police reports and court transcripts, as well as dozens of interviews with Marker and her family, Smith, witnesses, police and lawyers, and experts in police interrogation, head trauma and eyewitness identification.


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Jill Marker

Jill Marker cuddles her son, Barron, who was born four months after the attack. (Photo by Ted Richardson)

Part One: The Prologue

An old conviction, a new evaluation

By Phoebe Zerwick


Jill Marker rests in the recliner in the corner of her living room. She is dressed in pink today — a pair of pants, a striped top and a bracelet to match. Though blind, she still cares about the way she looks.

The days pass quietly in her home outside of Akron, Ohio, her life a regimen of breathing

treatments, tube feedings and physical-therapy sessions.

At 5 p.m. sharp, a nurse helps her walk from the living room to her exercise cycle in the next room. She pedals steadily for a full hour, her head keeping time to the Eagles, one of her favorite bands before the attack in 1995 that nearly took her life.

Kalvin Michael Smith cannot sit still. He rests his foot on ...

Yesterday's Story
Part One: The Crime

By Phoebe Zerwick


Nancy Baxter heard low moans coming from the back of the Silk Plant Forest, back beyond the cash register and a display of artificial Christmas trees. It was five minutes to nine, and she had gone in hoping that there was time before the store closed to buy a garland.

She and another customer followed the moans, walking straight down the aisle, past the plant displays, to the back, where she found a person lying across an overturned ficus tree. There was so much blood on the face and matted in the hair that Baxter couldn’t be sure whether the person crying for help was a woman or a man, even whether she was white or black.

“I’m hurt. Help me, help me,” Jill Marker said, trying to sit up. “I can’t see you. I can’t hear you. I need to get back to the front.”

"My husband and I from the word go always said, 'Why would someone go in there and try to kill her?'"

Edna Hoisington, Jill Marker's mother

Jill Marker and Edna Hoisington

Jill Marker and her mother Edna Hoisington relax at home while listening to a book-on-tape. (Photo by Ted Richardson)