Through the almost 30 years since her daughter was fatally assaulted and the killer got off lightly, Santa Rosa's Dorothy Guest has hoped that what went around would come around.

Guest, now a gracious 86, didn't truly expect to witness justice served on the man who'd attacked her daughter when she tried to quit their relationship.

But in a Napa courtroom late last week, Guest wore a red carnation on her blouse -- just as she'd worn one every day to the trial of her daughter's killer in the 1980s -- as the same man was ordered to spend what will likely be the rest of his life in prison for a ghastly attack on another woman who'd dared to leave him.

"It took a long time. Too long," Guest said upon stepping from the courtroom with the granddaughter, Michelle Holme Corrigan, who was 15 when she discovered her mother's body at their home in San Francisco in 1984.

The justice delivered by Judge Thomas Warriner will not bring back Christine Holme, who at age 36 was fatally beaten and stabbed by former partner Claude T. Smith, long a manager of the Buena Vista Cafe.

But it virtually assures that Smith, now 73, has brutalized a woman for the last time, and it provides Dorothy Guest and her granddaughter a measure of peace.

"I feel like a 100-pound weight has been lifted off of me," said Guest, a longtime volunteer of the FISH food pantry, before the tears came. "It's a feeling that's hard to explain."


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It had come as a bolt from the blue for her to learn that Smith had struck again. The victim this time was Joanne Maher of Calistoga, who'd been his common-law wife and who had a son with him.

Last October, Maher was sleeping in the mobile home she had shared with Smith when she was attacked, beaten with a bottle and doused with its contents, battery acid. Terrified but not seriously injured, she recounted the attack to police. A short while later, they arrested Smith.

His appearance in the Napa County courts earlier this year came as an enormous shock to Corrigan, his first victim's daughter. She works as a court reporter in Napa and was left breathless by word that her mother's killer would stand trial there.

Corrigan decided not to tell her grandmother, Guest, about the trial. Guest had pinned on red carnations and attended every day of Smith's trial in San Francisco for the death of Corrigan's mother, and it devastated her when he was sentenced in 1988 to just four years in prison.

Guest's granddaughter didn't want to expose her to a terrible new disappointment, so she kept the Napa trial a secret. But when a jury last month convicted Smith of all counts in the Calistoga acid attack, Corrigan told Guest the news.

It horrified her to hear what her daughter's killer had done to another woman. But at the same time, Guest was gratified that Smith, who had been free for nearly a quarter of a century after serving a four-year sentence for the voluntary manslaughter conviction in the killing of her daughter, was back behind bars and facing a long, new prison sentence.

"God knows what he's done to other women in that time," Guest said.

All through the trial in San Francisco, Guest and relatives and supporters wore carnations to court as a sign of shared commitment to see justice done for her slain daughter.

Guest and several friends displayed carnations again when they appeared in Warriner's court late last week for the sentencing.

"If they had to take me on a stretcher, I would have gone," Guest said. "I wanted to get justice for Chris."

Napa County Deputy District Attorney Agnes Dziadur urged the longest possible prison sentence for Smith. Recounting his attacks on both Holme and Maker, who was present in courtroom, she declared, "This is clearly what the defendant does when facing the end of a relationship."

Smith was shackled and showed no emotion as Warriner ordered him imprisoned for 28 years and four months. He will be eligible for consideration of parole at the age of 97.

"I can't believe it," Guest said. "What goes around comes around.

"Thank God I lived to see it."

Contact Chris Smith at chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com