In the months before she died, Kinnedy Smith’s family and friends urged her to leave her abusive boyfriend — advice she adamantly rejected.
Smith was “beautifully stubborn,” according to her friend Chelsea Rim. “She wanted to be the person that fixed him, that loved him no matter what. She wanted to be his safe harbor.”
Despite loved ones’ fears that the violence could escalate, Smith stayed with Connor Regan at the apartment they shared on Jefferson Highway. It’s where her body was found last Saturday morning.
She had been stabbed. He has been arrested.
Regan called 911 the morning Smith died and directed police to the apartment, telling them he had stabbed his girlfriend and driven away, according to a police report. He was arrested later Saturday in Crowley, showing injuries consistent with someone who had recently attacked another person with a knife, police said. He’s being held at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on a second-degree murder accusation, in lieu of $200,000 bond.
Philip House, Regan’s attorney, said it was too early for him to provide a comment. A court date has not been set.
Regan, 27, and Smith, 21, began dating around January 2019 after the two connected on a dating site.
Ridge Jackson, who had known Smith since college and worked with her at different jobs, said there were early warning signs that his friend was in a toxic relationship. Smith had told him that within two weeks of knowing each other, Regan had choked her.
“Since then, we weekly begged her to leave,” Jackson said. “The fact that she stayed with Connor throughout all of the domestic violence speaks of how she chose to see the good in people, while also highlighting the psychological effects of domestic violence.”
Last November, authorities arrested Regan in Pointe Coupee Parish after a couple from Opelousas said they saw him physically abusing Smith on the side of the road. Smith told Rim they had gotten into an argument, and when she pulled out her phone to call 911 he grabbed it, threw it to the ground and started choking her, Rim said.
Pointe Coupee prosecutors charged Regan with battery of a dating partner, a misdemeanor. Regan never signed up for a pretrial diversion program that could have included domestic violence counseling. Prosecutors still plan to pursue the charge, hopeful that a conviction would show a pattern of abuse that could be introduced at a second-degree murder trial in Baton Rouge.
Since November, Smith’s loved ones redoubled their campaign to get her to leave Regan. Research shows that women who have suffered nonfatal strangulation abuse by intimate partners are about seven times more likely to be homicide victims.
However, leaving abusive situations is complicated. Domestic violence advocates say people can remain in harmful relationships for a number of reasons, such as clinging to the romantic love they still feel for their partner or believing their partner may one day go back to the person they remember before the abuse began.
Raised in Shreveport, Smith grew up close to her mother and younger sister. She attended Caddo Magnet High School and later LSU. As an international studies major, Smith studied abroad in Ecuador during her junior year.
One of Smith’s Facebook galleries, recounting her study abroad excursions, includes a striking photograph that shows a smiling Smith perched on a swing suspended over the edge of a vast cliff. “Swing at the end of the world,” reads the caption. The following pictures show her pointing her toes, arms outstretched as she soars over the trees far below.
Rim said her friend one day hoped to travel the world throughout her 20s, while she was young and untethered.
After graduating last December, Smith started work as an intake specialist at a law firm. She had big dreams — though exactly what she wanted to do with her life varied as she experienced new things.
“Just last week she asked me if she should pursue law school so she could fight injustice for those in need,” said Ashley Armstrong, Smith’s supervisor at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers. “It’s hard to remember a day that we weren’t met with her contagious smile.”
Unfortunately, Rim and others said, it was Smith’s big heart and gentle spirit that kept her in a relationship with Regan.
“She had a soft spot for all beings, and she didn’t deserve this tragedy,” said Kaylin Wilson, another close friend. “I’ll miss her soul more than words can express. I hope justice is served and she can fly higher than she ever imagined.”