Kitty Hawk cop charged in kidnapping

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2007

WINTON – A Kitty Hawk Police Officer is being held under a $10 million cash bond in connection with an alleged kidnapping of an Ahoskie man early Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, a small army of law enforcement officers and search and rescue teams have descended upon the Eden House Bridge (US 17) over the Chowan River near Edenton in search of the victim, Donald Bradley Smithwick, of Ahoskie.

In a late breaking development on Friday, the Ahoskie Police Department had issued an order of arrest on Smithwick’s ex-wife, Janice Denise Harrell of Edenton. Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said Harrell would be charged with accessory after the fact of first degree kidnapping.

Meanwhile, during his first appearance yesterday (Friday) morning in Hertford County Criminal District Court, 38-year-old Raymond Christian Jedele of Kill Devil Hills told Senior District Court Judge Al Kwasikpui that he had nothing to do with Smithwick’s kidnapping. In pleading his innocence, Jedele asked for his bond, originally set at $5 million cash on the charge of first degree kidnapping, to be reduced.

“It was not me,” Jedele told the judge. “You have the wrong person. I would never do something like that.”

Before acting on Jedele’s request, Judge Kwasikpui asked Assistant District Attorney Nick Matkins to weigh in on the matter.

“There was a considerable amount of blood found in this case,” Matkins said. “It’s an ongoing investigation. More charges may come.”

Prompted by Judge Kwasikpui, Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan revealed some very intriguing details about the current investigation. The Sheriff said Jedele was a close friend of Smithwick’s ex-wife.

“We do know that Mr. Smithwick and his ex-wife had gone through a custody battle over their children and Mr. Smithwick had obtained custody of those children,” Vaughan said.

Sheriff Vaughan went on to say that a witness to the kidnapping had informed investigators that she saw a white male, dressed in all black clothing, standing over Smithwick in the driveway of his Ahoskie home on Thursday morning. That suspect was allegedly tying Smithwick’s hands at the time.

“At 7:11 a.m. on Thursday morning, a 1988 Lincoln was involved in an accident on the bridge going to Edenton,” Vaughan said. “The Highway Patrol officer who investigated that accident noted in his report that Raymond Jedele was operating that vehicle and that Mr. Jedele was wearing all black clothing.”

The wrecked vehicle was moved to an Edenton residence where, later in the investigation, traces of blood were found in the trunk.

After a brief time to ponder the issue at hand, Judge Kwasikpui said he could find no reason for Jedele’s bond to be reduced.

“As a matter of fact, I find it should be increased,” the judge said. “Therefore I ordered it to be set at 10 million dollars cash.”

Call for help

The incident began before the majority of Roanoke-Chowan area residents woke-up on Thursday morning.

According to Chief Troy Fitzhugh, the APD E-911 dispatch center received a call at 5:59 a.m. concerning an abduction at 420 North Colony Ave.

Officers were immediately dispatched to that address. Upon arrival, they found blood in the driveway as well as wire from a Taser weapon. APD officials summoned the help of the SBI to process the crime scene.

“All we had to work with early on were witness statements,” Chief Fitzhugh said. “We knew time was of the essence, especially in a kidnapping case. We were doing all we could on what we had to go on in order to locate Mr. Smithwick.”

Two big breaks helped police investigators set their sights on Jedele. The first came when Smithwick’s pick-up truck, with blood inside the cab, was located a short distance from his residence. The second clue resulted in Jedele’s accident on the Eden House Bridge.

“Using the help of the U.S. Marshall’s Service, we were able to track Mr. Smithwick’s cell phone to a cell tower near Edenton,” Fitzhugh said. “Then, after the wreck on the bridge, we found out that the woman (Harrell) rode out to the accident scene with the tow truck driver. All of that helped point us directly towards Mr. Jedele.”

Suspended without pay

Friday morning, the Kitty Hawk Police Department issued a press release in regards to Jedele’s employment status in wake of his arrest.

“Following Kitty Hawk Town policy, Raymond Christian Jedele has been placed on Disciplinary Suspension without pay,” according to the release. “At the appropriate time, the Kitty Hawk Police Department will conduct an internal investigation per departmental policy. The Kitty Hawk Police Department will continue to assist the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Ahoskie Police Department with this investigation.”

Jedele has been employed with the Kitty Hawk Police Department since April 18, 2006.

It was noted in Hertford County Court on Friday morning that Jedele is a former employee of Blackwater, a self-described private military company and security firm located near Moyock.

Judge Kwasikpui set Jedele’s probable cause hearing for Oct. 30.

Jedele said in court that he would hire his own attorney.