Murder suspect had ‘previous relationship’ with Maya Smith, say police

Accused killer Jermaine Mandley was not the father of toddler found in backseat of slain mother’s car, aunt says

Jermaine Mandley

The man accused in the alley murder of Maya Smith had a “previous romantic relationship” with her, a Joliet police spokesperson said.

Details about the relationship between Smith, 24, and Jermaine Mandley, 48, were not available Wednesday, and the extent of their relationship was not made clear.

One family member emphasized that Mandley was not the father of the 2-year-old girl in the back of the vehicle in which Smith’s body was found in the early-morning hours Sunday.

The alley between Clement Street and Oakland Avenue in Joliet. Police are investigating a fatal shooting of a 24-year-old woman on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

Mandley of Bolingbrook was arrested Tuesday when found on the southeast side of Chicago by federal agents.

He became a suspect soon after Joliet police found Smith’s bullet-ridden body at 4:21 a.m. Sunday in a vehicle parked in an alley in the 1200 block of Clement Street.

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office on Monday approved charging Mandley with three counts of first-degree murder as a Will County judge approved a $5 million bond before he was even found.

Court documents of the case have been sealed, leaving little room for insight on the case against Mandley.

“They had a previous romantic relationship,” Sgt. Dwayne English, spokesperson for the Joliet Police Department, said Wednesday.

“He was not the father of the baby,” said Bonnie Winfrey, Smith’s aunt.

Winfrey did not discuss details of what relationship her niece had with Mandley.

But she expressed horror at the way Smith died and appreciation for the Joliet police in making an arrest.

“It’s the saddest thing ever,” Winfrey said of Smith’s death. “I don’t know how any human being could bring themselves to hurt somebody like that.”

Winfrey, a local publicist who has worked for many Joliet organizations and causes, described her niece as “a very loving person” who had spent Christmas with her family. Everyone had “a fantastic time” for the holidays, Winfrey said.

“We didn’t know anything like this was in her future,” she said of her niece.

Smith, who grew up in Joliet, worked in customer service for a Joliet bank and had plans to study to become a nurse, Winfrey said. She was also devoted to her daughter.

“She was very proud to be a mother,” Winfrey said. “She was a great mother.”

The daughter now is in the care of Smith’s family. She was unharmed physically when found in the backseat of the vehicle where her mother was found shot to death.

While Smith’s roots were in Joliet, she most recently was living in Channahon, Winfrey said. She did not know how her niece ended up in the Joliet alley where she was found Sunday.

She expressed thanks for the Joliet Police Department’s investigation of the case, noting that the gruesome murder scene had an impact on police officers, too.

“We’re so thankful for all the police effort,” Winfrey said. “We know this was something that affected them in the worst way.”

Mandley has a lengthy court record that includes two orders of protection, numerous traffic cases and several criminal cases dating back to a disorderly conduct charge in 1993.

His ex-wife filed an order of protection against Mandley, accusing him of choking her in 2001 in the months leading up their divorce, according to Will County court records. The oder of protection eventually was dismissed.

A Romeoville woman filed an order of protection against Mandley in 2020. The woman accused Mandley of Facebook harassment and of sending her pictures of a “rifle he just purchased as well as bullets,” according to the petition for the order that was dismissed later that year.

Mandley’s legal troubles include a pending case from a Milwaukee credit company accusing him of owing them nearly $5,700.