Shining Light on a Dark Day: Tyler Woman Recalls Decade Old Attack

 Victoria Massey at a Smith County Commissioners Court meeting, where she was recognized for 15 years of service. 📷 courtesy Smith County Commissioners Court

June 29 is an anniversary date Victoria Massey wishes she could forget.

It’s not just the scars on her body or the recurring images in her memories but the yearly letter she receives from her imprisoned attacker.

“He was just rambling, blaming me or … asking me to retract my story. Some of the stuff didn’t make any sense,” she said. “It made me so nervous. I just stopped reading them.”

Now she returns them unopened.

This June marks the 10th anniversary of the day the man — Roy Edward Smith — beat her in the head with a chunk of concrete before stabbing her multiple times in the head, neck and chest.

Massey suffered a severed left ear, a cut from the bottom of the lobe to her shoulder and a punctured lung. She nearly died that day.

As the ambulance rushed her to a Tyler hospital, Massey recalls praying, asking God to ease the pain.

“When I said that, the pain literally went away. I felt my body go limp,” she said.

She heard a paramedic say, “Oh man, we lost her,” but moments later she felt another paramedic checking her pulse. 

“No, she’s still with us,” Massey recalled him saying.

Stranger danger

Victoria Massey’s attacker, Roy Edward Smith, serves time in the William P. Clements prison unit in Amarillo. Despite being 462 miles from Tyler, he contacts his victim and others via mail. 📷 courtesy Smith County jail records

That summer day in 2012, Massey was leaving her north Broadway Avenue apartment for work when she met a nice looking, clean-cut man walking up the stairs. She assumed he was just another student living in the building until he attacked her without warning.

Evidence showed Smith used a concrete rock tied inside a sock to repeatedly beat her in the head as he attempted to push her down.

“When he saw that he couldn’t get me on the ground, he got so angry and that’s when he pulled a knife,” Massey said. “I kept fighting him. I never stopped.”

But the pain began to take its toll. She became dizzy, blinded by a stream of blood flowing from a head wound. She said she prayed for God’s help.

“I heard a voice from God … and he said, ‘call my son’s name and I will save you,’” Massey said. “I screamed out, ‘Jesus, help me, save me.’”

It was then she said she believed guardian angels surrounded her body like a shield. She recalls seeing Smith staring at something just above her head.

“He was shaking … and then all of a sudden he took off running,” she said.

Smith stayed on the run for more than two years. Despite providing authorities with a description, police were unable to identify Smith as the attacker until they found a DNA match of a stain on the sock’s knot in 2014. 

In the 10 months following the attack, Massey underwent several surgeries, months of physical therapy and met with a psychiatrist. She said she still suffers from insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

“My life will never be the same … but I’m trying to get back to as normal as I possibly can,” she said.

Smith’s fate

During his 2016 trial, a Smith County jury took less than an hour to convict Smith of aggravated assault and another 10 minutes to sentence him to life in prison.

His state criminal record dates to 2000 and includes convictions for criminal mischief, burglary, credit card abuse, tampering with a witness and retaliation. The latter charge brought him a 20-year prison sentence for stalking a female parole officer in Henderson.

The life sentence he received for attacking Massey — which was upheld on appeal — doesn’t start until he completes the sentence in that Henderson case. 

Smith serves time in the William P. Clements prison unit in Amarillo, but despite being 462 miles from Tyler, he still contacts his victim and others via mail.

“He’s very aggressive and persistent, sending letters to his victims … and to me as well,” Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman said.

Putman was an assistant district attorney when he prosecuted Smith.

“This is an unusual case. Roy Smith is … probably the scariest person I’ve ever prosecuted,” Putman said. “He was very violent, vicious for no reason whatsoever. I certainly hope he is never paroled out. Certainly, he is a threat to society.”

Corrections officials have denied Smith parole twice on the retaliation sentence — most recently in March — citing his criminal history, the nature of the offense and time served.

“The length (time served) is not congruent with the offense severity and criminal history,” according to state records on the reasons for the denial.

Putman and Massey said Smith’s letters are reported to prison officials and to victim advocates in Austin.

“There’s not a whole lot more we can do to him (since he is serving a life sentence). We contact the warden … who can revoke any privileges he may have,” Putman said.

Getting on with her life

Massey said she still has nightmares, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night screaming because she believes she is being attacked. There are still real physical aches and pains.

“Some days are good, some days aren’t so good,” she said.

Massey, who was recognized recently for her 15 years of service as a county employee, said she combats the recurring bad feelings through meditation.

“I have to stop and think about something else, think good thoughts,” she said. “Talking to others about it also is like therapy.”

Massey said she has shared her experience at various church functions and to domestic violence support groups.

“At first, I felt like I was alone … no one wants to hear this. But when I started sharing my story … people thanked me because something similar happened to them, and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone,” she said. “It made me feel good that I was able to help somebody else.”

She also had dealt with her feelings about Smith, who she said has mental health issues.

Court records show Smith was once evaluated at Rusk State Hospital but found competent to stand trial on criminal charges in Henderson. Massey recalled testimony from that case in which Smith claimed to have idolized convicted murderers Charles Manson and Ted Bundy.

She hesitantly used the word “hate” to describe her feelings toward Smith.

“I know that’s really harsh. I forgive him. Being a Christian, you know you have to forgive, but I never can forget,” Massey said.

She said she sometimes prays that God “would just let him die in his sleep or something.”

“Because it is horrible to live the way I live … to be so fearful of everything, watching your back wherever you go,” she said.

She strongly believes Smith is an evil man who should never be released from prison.

“If he doesn’t come back to finish me off, then he’s going to hurt somebody else. That’s his mindset,” she said. “It’s so scary.”

Still, Massey can’t help asking herself … and God … “Why me?”

The answer reminds her of something she once read on a Facebook post: “Your path is harder, because your calling is higher.”

“I believe God … allows me to go through certain things to build my strength, to build my character,” she said. 

She thinks about Job in the Bible and everything he went through and what he lost. “That’s how it was for me,” Massey said. “I lost everything. I started from ground zero but slowly, God is rebuilding me. This incident is making me a stronger person. I was timid before … now I’m more of a fighter.”

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Vanessa E. Curry is a journalist with nearly 35 years of experience as a writer, editor and instructor. She earned a B.S. degree in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a MSIS degree from The University of Texas at Tyler with emphasis on journalism, political science and criminal justice. She has worked newspaper in Marlin, Henderson, Tyler and Jacksonville, Texas as well as in Columbia Tennessee. Vanessa also was a journalism instructor at the UT-Tyler and Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has been recognized by the State Bar of Texas, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Dallas Press Club, and Tennessee Press Association. She currently is working on publishing two books: "Lies and Consequences: The Trials of Kerry Max Cook," and "A Gold Medal Man, A biography of Kenneth L. "Tug" Wilson.