Murderer Who Buried Child Alive Gets Life

Times Staff Writer

Recaptured jail escapee Brian Keith Smith was sentenced Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court to life in prison without possibility of parole for the 1985 murder of a 10-year-old girl he left buried alive in an ice chest.

Judge Duke D. Rouse also ordered an eight-year sentence for the 25-year-old Fontana truck driver for the kidnaping of Melissa Wakefield, whom he took from her bed in a trailer outside her home, and two more years for sexually molesting her.

The terms are to be consecutive, Rouse ruled. The judge observed that Smith deserved the sentence because of the “incredibly terrible” torture-murder.


A forensic pathologist had testified that the child may have been alive for two or three July days inside the ice chest buried in the desert near Phelan before she finally died of suffocation and heat exhaustion.

Smith, who still faces charges in two escapes, kept his head down during the sentencing. His mother, Marlene Fridley, 40, and stepfather, Jerry Fridley, 48, were in court, but said nothing. Both are free on bail and accused of aiding Smith’s escape from San Bernardino County Jail last week.

Smith managed to flee the night of Sept. 4 by unscrewing a visiting room partition window while talking to his parents. He was caught two days later in the Lake Elsinore area when he approached a public telephone next to where two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were standing.

San Bernardino County Deputy Dist. Atty. Stephen Ashworth said Thursday that it was still not known where Smith obtained the tool needed to loosen the special screws, but “he says he got it from a trusty.”

Ashworth said he intends to file felony complaints against the Fridleys today, charging them with assisting and being accessories to the escape as well as first-degree burglary (for entering an occupied building with the intent to commit a felony).

Smith is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 23 in San Bernardino Municipal Court on the escape from jail. Ashworth said he plans to join that case with the one in which Smith faces a Nov. 3 trial for slipping out of a courtroom holding room during his murder trial last June 11.