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Kidnapping ‘news’ unconfirmed

AHOSKIE – The “news” is confusing.

Despite reports from other media sources citing confirmed information, Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said yesterday (Friday) that the body found Tuesday in Chowan County has not been positively identified as Donald Bradley Smithwick.

“I’ve heard the reports and all I can tell you at this time is that we are still waiting for written documentation from the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Greenville in regards to a positive identification of that body,” Chief Fitzhugh said.

When asked if the Medical Examiner had contacted him and verbally relayed confirmation, Fitzhugh answered, “no.”

Fitzhugh also said media reports of the cause of death were unconfirmed. One media source said Smithwick was shot in the head.

“I don’t know where the source of all this information is coming from,” he said. “No one has contacted me or any member of the Ahoskie Police with that type of information.”

Fitzhugh continued,

“It’s like I told all members of the media on Tuesday, we believe this is the body of Donald Bradley Smithwick, but we must wait for the official confirmation from the Medical Examiner.”

While waiting for that confirmation, local and state law enforcement agencies are making every effort not have the case grow cold.

On Thursday, exactly one week after Smithwick was abducted from his Colony Street home, Ahoskie Police officers were joined by the State Bureau of Investigation in canvassing the neighborhoods off Academy Street.

“We are continuing our investigation by talking with residents that live in the general area of Mr. Smithwick’s residence,” Fitzhugh said.

Meanwhile, the news was confirmed that Raymond Christian Jedele of Kill Devil Hills, one of the two suspects arrested last week for kidnapping Smithwick, was transferred Wednesday from the Hertford County Detention Center in Winton to Central Prison in Raleigh.

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said the transfer was for “security purposes.”

Jedele, a Kitty Hawk Police Officer placed on leave without pay by his department, remains under a $10 million cash bond on the charge of first degree kidnapping.

The second suspect, Janet Denise Harrell of Edenton, was arrested last Friday. She was charged with being an accessory after the fact of first degree kidnapping and was placed under a $3 million cash bond in the Hertford County Detention Center where she remains.

Smithwick, 33, was kidnapped from his home at around 6 a.m. on Oct. 4 as he apparently left for his job at Nucor of Hertford County. That prompted a ground and water search of areas in Bertie and Chowan counties by numerous agencies.

A body was found by a North Carolina Wildlife Officer near Edenton on Tuesday morning.

While no official confirmation has been made on the identity of that body, a memorial service for Smithwick will be held at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday) at Faith Alive Ministries, 423 Shell Road in Chesapeake, Va.

In lieu of flowers, a benefit account has been established for Smithwick’s two children n Samantha and Christopher. Those wishing to make a donation can do so at any branch of the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union.