Slain Brackenridge woman's family still seeks justice
Kelly Nicole Smith's family wants answers about her homicide six years ago today.
Smith's body was found in Chartiers Run near the Allegheny River in a remote part of Lower Burrell on the afternoon of June 14, 2007.
Smith's death was soon ruled a homicide but, years later, detectives still aren't giving out many details such as where or how she died.
The reason, detectives insist, is that they want to bring Smith's killer to justice and there are some facts that only they — and the killer — know. Holding back details will help prosecutors to convict the killer and any accomplices when police get enough evidence to file charges, Lower Burrell police and Westmoreland County detectives said.
Members of Smith's family said they desperately want the same thing. But the authorities haven't talked to them for almost two years.
“I've gone to the detectives and they don't say much. I went to the district attorney's office and I basically got the cold shoulder, and they are starting to be inaccessible,” complains her husband, Jason W. Smith, who still lives in the Cleveland Avenue, Brackenridge, house they once shared.
“They haven't even ruled me out yet (as a suspect), and I didn't do it. I've been told police are real close to making an arrest but there isn't quite enough evidence to make an arrest. It's like the case is stagnant, and we're asking anyone with information to say something,” Smith said.
The couple were living apart just before Kelly Smith died, but they were talking about reconciling and even about having another child, Smith said.
Police have talked with another man who was staying in the house with Kelly before her death. They even went to Texas to find him after he didn't voluntarily talk with police following Kelly's funeral as he promised.
“I have a fear that time will go by and then there just won't be any answers at all,” Jason Smith said.
“This wasn't like looking for a needle in a haystack. They have a suspect,” said Kelly Smith's mother, Karen Godfrey.
“Not having any more information is just frustrating and it hurts,” she said.
“We just want to know who killed our little girl,” added Smith's dad, John Godfrey, at the couple's Natrona Heights house, where Kelly and her brother Patrick were raised.
Kelly and Jason Smith's son, Mason, 10, lives with his dad most of the time. He also spends a lot of time in the Godfrey house because his grandfather John is a retired steelworker.
“Mason is the best pitcher for his age. Ask anyone. It's not just me, his grandfather, saying it. And look at the size of those hands,” the very proud granddad said.
Yet each time Mason plays ball, he is reminded he no longer has his mother to cheer him on and walk him from the ball field.
“Sometimes there are some tears. His and mine,” John Godfrey said.
And he still wonders if his daughter's killer had help getting her body into the creek.
“She was a big girl — almost 5 feet 11, and she weighed about 170. He needed help,” Godfrey said, making it clear he thinks he knows who killed Kelly.
“How can someone live with this — the killer and maybe someone who helped him?” Godfrey asked.
“If someone gets away with this for 30 years, then it won't be justice,” Godfrey said.
Detectives and Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck separately said they are continuing to look for answers.
“We are pursuing any information that we get,” Peck said. “If the family wants to talk with me, they can always do so.”
Detectives said they are still working the case.
“We had an outside agency come in to look at the case files and give reactions to us. We can't yet say what they said or didn't say because we are still investigating,” said county Detective John Clark.
“We will continue to investigate this until we can take it to trial,” said Lower Burrell Detective Lt. Robert Galvanek.
Police haven't eliminated any suspects or described anyone as a main suspect.
That will change if someone who knows what happened calls police, Smith said.
“We're trying to get things stirred up,” Smith said.
Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.