Man sentenced to life in prison for 2021 Salem hotel murder

A Marion County Circuit Judge sentenced a Silverton man to life in prison on Thursday for shooting and killing 21-year-old Davontae D. Smith in June 2021 at a northeast Salem hotel.

Antonio J. Soto, 34, must serve at least 45 years in prison before he can petition the state’s parole board to be considered for release. 

Circuit Judge James Edmonds also sentenced Soto to a lifetime of post-prison supervision if he is released.

The sentence comes a month after a jury found Soto guilty on Feb. 10, following a 10-day trial in Marion County Circuit Court. He was convicted of second-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and possessing a firearm as a felon. 

Soto opened fire in a hallway of the Capital Inn on Northeast Fisher Road, fatally shooting Smith and nearly hitting another man. He then fled, according to a sentencing memorandum from Marion County Deputy District Attorney Katharine Semple.

“(Soto) killed Davontae Smith, an innocent man, who had merely stopped out of concern for a woman who he believed was being assaulted,” Semple wrote in the court filing.

Authorities have otherwise provided no information about what led to the murder of Smith, a Portland resident.

Soto was legally barred from having a gun at the time of the shooting, which occurred 15 months after he completed a nine-year prison sentence for robbery, according to Semple’s memorandum.

Salem Police Department officers arrived at the hotel around 3:30 a.m. on June 8, 2021, after callers reported hearing gunshots coming from the second floor, according to a court filing Jan. 12 by Edmonds.

Police found Smith dead in the stairwell.

Officers subsequently searched rooms 211 and 219 of the hotel, reviewed surveillance video and searched through Smith’s cell phone, according to the court filing.

The Salem police identified Smith as the victim three days after the shooting. A grand jury charged Soto in a sealed indictment that same day, court records showed.

One month later on July 8, 2021, the Salem police identified Soto as the suspect in a news release. The department said Soto was “armed and dangerous,” issuing a public call for information that would help police find him.

U.S. deputy marshals arrested Soto in Pasco, Washington, the following day. At the time of his arrest, he “had once again unlawfully armed himself, this time with multiple firearms, one of which was stolen,” Semple said in her memorandum.

Soto has criminal convictions in Oregon and Washington dating back to 2003, including assault, possession of a stolen vehicle and theft of a motor vehicle. 

A decade earlier, in 2011, Soto pleaded guilty in Marion County to first-degree robbery. Prosecutors dismissed additional counts of second-degree robbery and third-degree assault as part of his plea deal, court records showed. He was sentenced to nine years and six months in state prison and three years of post-prison supervision.

Soto was extradited to Salem and booked into Marion County Jail two months after his arrest on Sept. 8, 2021, according to Marion County Sheriff’s Sgt. Don Parise.

“When the defendant opened fire in that hotel hallway, he not only took the life of one person, but endangered the lives of many,” Semple said of the June 2021 shooting in her memorandum.

She said that while a second victim was not injured, “it would be inaccurate to say he is unharmed.” The victim is not being identified but is named in public court documents.

“For the rest of his life (the victim) will not only suffer emotional scars and deal with survivor’s guilt, but he will also have to live with the memory of watching his friend get murdered. As he bluntly stated during his testimony: “Seeing something like that really (expletive) someone up.’”

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM – We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter. Click I want to subscribe!

Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.