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Jury in Norfolk finds father guilty on all charges after son's death

Hank Smith Jr. was convicted of felony homicide charges as well as child abuse, neglect and cruelty. His son, 4-year-old Larkin Carr, died in 2018.

NORFOLK, Va. — On Friday, a jury returned guilty verdicts on all charges that a father faced in connection to his son's death in 2018. It took about 4 and a half hours for 12 people to reach that verdict.

“I’m extremely disappointed. We felt we put on a very good case this week,” explained Smith’s attorney, Kristin Paulding.

Prosecutors said Hank Smith Jr. failed to get 4-year-old Larkin Carr the help he needed after a teenager beat Larkin.

Smith faced felony homicide and child abuse charges. 

"It’s just been very hard all around and nobody wins," Paulding said. "Larkin had a very tough life while he was here for four years. I don’t think that this verdict will make it any better for the family to heal.”

Jurors heard closing arguments in the case on Thursday. Deliberations began first thing Friday morning.

The Commonwealth said the case was about accountability and that Smith was responsible for what happened to his son.

Prosecutors said Smith should have protected Larkin from the abuse he endured. Larkin had thrown up for several days before his death. Catherine Seals, who was dating Smith at the time, testified that they thought Larkin had a stomach bug and they didn’t take him to the hospital.

The lead prosecutor asked: “What experienced parent doesn’t take the child to the hospital?” 

He went on to say that not taking Larkin to get medical care allowed him to get hurt again. 

The Commonwealth said Larkin never got the chance to be free from the abuse.

According to an expert from Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and a pathologist, Larkin died from blunt force trauma while living with Smith, Seals, and Seals' teenage son. Larkin had at least 80 bruises on his body. 

The teenager is charged with second-degree murder in Larkin’s death.

Paulding said Smith loved his children and had no direct evidence his girlfriend’s son abused Larkin. The lawyer added that the blunt force trauma came from the teenager. 

“Obviously I can’t overcome the fact that the medical examiners found 80-90 bruises on his body as well as significant internal injuries. That was what I felt was the hardest piece of evidence,” Paulding said.

She went on to say so many people had eyes on the 4-year-old, including therapists and school leaders, and that no one reported any issues. 

“Norfolk CPS and Rockingham social services dropped the ball on this case too, and no one is pointing the finger at them, and that’s really disappointing,” she said.

Credit: Norfolk Police Department
Hank Smith Jr.

Paulding said her client told Child Protective Services about Larkin’s bruises several times. Smith also spent very little time at home with his children because he was working to provide for his family. She said it was hard for Smith to understand fully what happened at the home, day-to-day.

Prosecutors said CPS didn’t know the full story about what happened inside the home, because Smith lied. They said when Smith saw the bruises on Larkin, he should have taken him to a doctor.

Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 14.

In 2019, Catherine Seals pleaded guilty to felony homicide and child abuse/neglect in Larkin’s death. Officials plan to sentence her on Dec. 10. 

The trial of Seals' son is expected to start on Feb. 1.