Man charged with killing wife, stepdaughter

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

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ATLANTA - An Atlanta man suspected in three slayings over the weekend is set to make his first court appearance Tuesday morning.

Atlanta police have charged 32-year-old Joseph Leonardo Smith with two counts of felony murder, and East Point police say he's a suspect in a killing there as well.

East Point police said they got a call from a relative of Smith’s for a welfare check at a room in the Wellesley Inn on Virginia Avenue on Sunday.

When officers arrived, they found the body of 36-year-old Loveitt Wallace, police said.

A police spokesperson identified Smith as a suspect in Wallace’s death. Police said they believe Wallace was Smith's mistress.

About an hour later, Atlanta police were called to a home in the Cascades by Centex Townhomes in southwest Atlanta. Tipsters told police several people had been shot.

Officers said Smith barricaded himself in the home and refused to come out.

Once he did surrender, detectives found the bodies of his wife, Shatikey Griffin, and her 12-year-old daughter, Demiya.

Family members said Griffin and Smith had been married only a few weeks.

"This is something that we never knew could happen," Shatikey Griffin's father, Thaddues Griffin, said.

Family friend Duwon Robinson said he's known the family since he was a toddler .

"I'm confused as to why it would have happened like that," Robinson said.

Channel 2 Action News reporter Tony Thomas also spoke by phone with Wallace's family, but they didn't want to talk publicly about what had happened.

Atlanta police said Smith is the only suspect in the investigation, but detectives won't discuss a motive.

The Griffin family is stunned that Smith might kill multiple people. They said  they had no warning.

"He was just very cool and laughing, he fit right in with the family," Robinson said.

"Just something that happened to him I guess, I don't know his mind must be mad or something have no idea," Thaddues Griffin said.

Demiya Griffin was a student at KIPP WAYS Academy.

"The KIPP family is very saddened by the tragic death of KIPP WAYS Academy seventh grader, Demiya Griffin, and her mother, Shatikey Griffin. This is a tragic loss to the KIPP WAYS Academy Team & Family," said KIPP WAYS Academy principal Dwight Ho-Sang. "Demiya was an incredibly sweet young girl who consistently demonstrated the school's values and was a great teammate. As an honor roll student who loved theater, Demiya had a very bright future ahead of her. We will miss her warm smile and bubbly personality."

The KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, including KIPP WAYS Academy, have a regularly scheduled fall break this coming week and school will not be in session.

A 6 p.m. vigil for Demiya is scheduled for Monday at KIPP WAYS Academy.

The school will provide grief counselors to students to help them through this difficult time.