‘Person of interest’ in Leesburg woman’s murder investigation arrested on separate charge

Police say they’ve arrested a man identified as a person of interest in the murder of a Leesburg woman found shout to death in her home this week.


The shooting happened early Monday morning in a neighborhood just off of Griffin Road and U.S. Highway 27.

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Friends of the victim, identified as 37-year-old Melissa Smith, say she didn’t deserve to be shot.

“My friend was a good person, Cressida Foster said. “I’ve been trying to call her name and she won’t answer. I can’t go to that door.”

Foster says Smith liked to help people in need, often offering food or a place to sleep.

However, on Sunday, Foster says a man Smith had only been dating for about a week angrily left a dinner at the home after a neighbor beat him up because of how he treated Smith.

Records show that man, identified as 40-year-old Alphonza Bryant, was just released from state prison in October after serving nearly 20 years for an armed robbery.

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Bryant was arrested by Leesburg police late Wednesday night for a probation violation stemming from a battery arrest earlier this year.

Police have confirmed that Bryant is a person of interest in Melissa Smith’s homicide, but say they’re still not in a position to charge anyone in that case.

Smith’s friends and family say they’re thankful Bryant is behind bars, but are still hoping that whoever murdered her will be charged soon.

“She did not deserve that,” Foster said. “She was a good person. She was so good. I wouldn’t trade her for nothing in the world.”

Bryant remains jailed on no bond.

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Police say their investigation into Smith’s death is ongoing and they’re still actively seeking information about the case.

They’re asking anyone with information that may help solve the case to call the police department at (352) 728-9860. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Central Florida Crimeline at 800-423-8477. Information that leads to an arrest may be eligible for a reward.

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