For the past two weeks Heidi Campbell has wanted Cedric Smith Jr. to look into her eyes. She wants him to see the hurt and the pain she’s going through.
“I want him to see what he’s taken away from me,” Campbell said.
Two weeks earlier, court documents say, Campbell’s 18-year-old daughter, Allie Campbell, drove with Smith from her St. Cloud home to a Brooklyn Center motel and entered a room where someone was selling pot. Campbell and Smith, 20, went into a bathroom and a gun went off.
The only person who knows what actually happened in that room, Smith, isn’t talking — at least not to police.
According to court records, after the shooting, Smith, a felon, ran out of the bathroom covered in blood, yelling to the pot dealer that they needed to get out of there and that they would go to prison for murder. Then they ran from the motel, leaving Campbell lying in a pool of blood.
After his arrest, he was overheard telling another suspect in the case that he told Allie to stop playing with the gun — “not to do it” — when he jumped toward her and the gun went off. In a recording at the jail, though, he told his mother that Campbell killed herself.
Heidi Campbell can’t believe that. Neither can her other friends and family, who remember a girl who loved to make them laugh. She never seemed unhappy or depressed. She wanted to get out of St. Cloud and talked about running her own business. Maybe a restaurant, or a nightclub in Florida.
“Allie never would have shot herself,” Campbell said, pounding a table, two hours before she got to see Smith at his first court hearing.
Smith isn’t charged with killing the 18-year-old, but rather for being a felon in possession of a firearm. If he’s convicted, he faces a minimum of five years in prison. To Campbell, that’s not enough.
Smith, dressed in an orange jail uniform, walked into the courtroom on a Friday afternoon and quickly saw benches filled with Campbell’s family and friends.
One of the first people he looked at was Heidi Campbell.
She started to shake.
Lost dad at an early age
Allie Campbell adored her father, Major Campbell, a former semipro football player and high school teacher. She was 8 when he died from pancreatic cancer.
“She always said she wanted to do better for her dad,” Heidi Campbell said.
Her grief was often masked by her joyous, effusive personality. Thirteen years ago Keara Kissner had just moved in next door when Allie Campbell ran up to her, thinking Kissner was someone else.
“When she realized I wasn’t her, she said, ‘well, we’re going to play anyway.’ ”
They bonded over each of them having lost their fathers and had remained close friends ever since.
Campbell went to St. Cloud Tech High School, but she started getting bullied and skipping class. School became a struggle. Campbell transferred to the St. Cloud Alternative Learning Center and quickly made friends whose moods seemed to brighten whenever she was around.
“She was always there for someone who needed help,” said classmate Eve Heiniemi.
But as she grew older, she and her mom clashed over the girl’s behavior. She started drinking. She was 17 when she got a DWI in January 2016. Heidi Campbell begged her daughter to stop, even tried to scare her with threats of rehab, but by the time she got to 18 there was little the mother could do “other than chain her to a fence.”
Her daughter always had a tough time listening, Heidi Campbell said.
“She had to find out for herself,” she said.
When Allie Campbell started talking to Smith when he was in jail, it wasn’t just her mom who warned her, but also other family and friends.
It was only after Campbell’s death that friends and family learned that he’d been convicted of severely beating a man with a tire iron in Brooklyn Park in April 2016, leaving his victim permanently scarred.
After he got out of jail a few months ago, Smith would sometimes stop by the Campbells’ home. The mother said he was always cordial, but she pleaded with her daughter not to see him.
“Allie don’t listen,” said her brother, Zach.
Still, in the past few months Allie Campbell had worked on being more responsible. Her grades improved and she got close to graduating. She worked five days a week to pay off the DWI fines.
Around 7 p.m. on Feb 11, Smith went to the Campbells’ home, expecting to find her there. When she wasn’t, he called her, angry that she was late, her brother said.
Campbell’s friend Kissner was with her that night. She drove her to meet Smith but wanted to talk with him first.
“If you do anything to hurt her, you’ll regret it,” Kissner told him.
“I never would,” she said Smith replied.
The last time she saw her daughter, Heidi Campbell had no reason to worry. She was supposed to work the next day. But she didn’t come home that night and wasn’t answering texts the next morning. No matter how badly they fought, her daughter always texted her back. When the police car drove up on her street, Campbell rushed out to meet the officer.
On the day of her wake, Allie Campbell’s principal told her mom that the girl earned enough credits to graduate.
He handed Campbell her daughter’s diploma.
Before going into room 225 of the Quality Inn Motel around 8:17 p.m., Allie Campbell took a selfie standing in front of a mirror and posted it on Snapchat. Fifteen minutes later, surveillance video caught Smith and two others running out of the motel. Police found the girl’s blood covering the bathroom floor, toilet and tub.
Back in court
Smith was arrested a few hours later and held in the Hennepin County jail for violating his probation from the April 2016 beating. He would wait a week before his first court hearing, and when he walked into the downtown Minneapolis courtroom he saw a dozen angry people staring back at him.
Heidi Campbell and 11 other family members and friends drove from St. Cloud to be there, some wearing shirts and sweaters with Allie Campbell’s picture on it. Smith scanned the room. Then he saw Campbell. They locked eyes.
Her jaw clenched. Her eyes focused in on his. Her heart felt like it was going to leap out of her chest. She couldn’t control her shaking. She wanted to find something to throw at him, but she didn’t want to look away.
“If he’s thinking I’ll miss the next court hearing, he’s wrong,” Campbell said. “Every time he goes to court, I want him to think about me being there.”