A Charlottesville man who previously was sentenced to life imprisonment on drug and gun charges, but had his sentence reduced, has been charged with the murder of Eldridge “Skeeta” Smith.
Charlottesville police on Friday arrested Tadashi Demetrius Keyes, 38, in connection with Smith’s murder on Jan. 28.
Smith’s bullet-riddled body was found in an SUV just before 10 p.m. that night near Fifeville Park, not far from the University of Virginia. Smith was a member of the city’s B.U.C.K. Squad, a group dedicated to removing gun violence from the city’s streets.
According to a B.U.C.K. Squad Instagram post, Smith was on his way to work when he was killed.
Keyes faces one count of second-degree murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, police said in a statement on Friday.
Keyes was taken into custody without incident, police said, and was being held at Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail as of Friday night.
Police said before Keyes’ arrest that they believed Smith knew his murderer, but law enforcement officials on Friday said they could not discuss at this time how the two might have known one another.
“I cannot get into any details in reference to motive,” Charlottesville Police Chief Michael Kochis told The Daily Progress.
Keyes is not new to the criminal justice system.
On Sept. 21, 2004, Keyes was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 120 months after he was found guilty for conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine and possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. He maintained his innocence throughout his trial.
“In 2002 law enforcement began investigating a large-scale drug conspiracy in Charlottesville, Virginia,” according to court records.
Keyes, who was 18, at the time was identified by police as an “enforcer” in a narcotics business dubbed “Estes Street Inc.,” named after the area in which it operated.
According to Daily Progress coverage of the trial, Keyes was “second lieutenant” under a man named Gregory Felton, known as “Capone” on the streets.
“Keyes participated in a conspiracy that distributed significant quantities of cocaine in Charlottesville,” according to court records. “He was known as one of the organization’s enforcers, pulling the trigger at least once to cause bodily injury, and being present with other co-conspirators when Felton committed murder in furtherance of the conspiracy.”
Keyes and Felton were both arrested, charged and convicted on those counts. Felton was sentenced to two life terms. Keyes was sentenced to a single life term plus 120 months.
Those sentences, however, didn’t stick.
In March of last year, Felton’s was reduced to 360 months and Keyes’ was reduced to 280 months.
Keyes was released in September. Felton’s name could not be found in a search of the Virginia Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons databases.
In his decision to reduce Keyes’ sentence, Judge Norman K. Moon referenced Keyes’ young age at the time of the original crime, the fact that Keyes was present for but not guilty of murder as well as the 2010 passing of the Fair Sentencing Act, which “reduced sentencing disparities between cocaine and crack cocaine offenses, which were widely criticized for producing racially disproportionate sentencing outcomes.”
In his petition to have his sentenced reduced, Keyes told the court that he was “not that of a violent agitator who poses a continued risk to public safety,” but “someone simply trying to survive in remarkably dangerous environments.”