Murder charged in death of actress's son

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah man was charged Tuesday in the beating death of the 18-year-old son of actress Beverly Todd and television director Kris Kaiser, officers said.

Malik Smith, Los Angeles, died Monday night at University of Utah Hospital from injuries suffered in a weekend dance club fight without regaining consciousness, West Valley City Police said.


Charged Tuesday with second-degree homicide was John T. Leoto, 18, Midvale. Leoto was arrested Monday and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail, said Sgt. Thayle Nielsen.

The teenager struck Smith once in the face Saturday night, knocking his head against the sharp corner of a low wall, Nielsen said, and then the victim was kicked in the face while he was on the ground.

Smith, who is black, reportedly did not challenge his attacker, but apparently angered him by asking some of the assailant's girlfriends to dance, Nielsen said. Leoto is of Polynesian ancestory.

'It was a macho thing,' Nielsen said. 'There's nothing to indicate at all that it's racial or gang-related.'

The victim's mother has a supporting role in the just-released movie 'Lean on Me,' and appeared in 'Clara's Heart,' 'Moving' and 'Baby Boom.' She played Fanta in the television mini-series 'Roots.'


In a statement, Todd said: 'My son has been killed. I'm very upset about it. I have every reason to believe justice will be served. I'm going to miss my son very much, as any parent would whose son was killed. And that's all I have to say.'

Asked if he was satisfied there were no racial overtones in the case, Kaiser said, 'At this point in time I'm taking no position one way or the other.'

'I am taking no position, but we are going to leave no stone unturned,' said Kaiser, who added the Utah NAACP chapter and the president of the Hollywood-Beverly Hills NAACP chapter would monitor the case.

Todd and Kaiser met with investigators and Salt Lake County prosecutors Tuesday.

Smith arrived in Salt Lake with a friend Saturday for a 10-day skiing vacation. They went to the teenage dance club that night with the friend's cousin.

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