DNA test may lead to murder charges

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AHOSKIE – The key to linking two suspects to the death of Donald Bradley Smithwick lies within DNA evidence now being studied by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Smithwick, 33 of Colony Avenue, was kidnapped from his Ahoskie home exactly two weeks ago. His body was discovered Oct. 9 in a wooded area near Edenton. The cause of death remains unknown at this time.

However, investigators on the case do have evidence to work with as they attempt to link Smithwick’s death with two individuals now in custody for his kidnapping – Raymond Christian Jedele of Kill Devil Hills and Janet Denise Harrell of Edenton.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh confirmed that blood samples have been collected from Smithwick’s driveway, in the cab of his pick-up truck and in the trunk of a vehicle driven by Jedele.

“That evidence has been sent to the SBI Crime Lab in Raleigh,” Fitzhugh said. “We are soon expecting the results of the SBI’s DNA tests on those blood samples.”

In the meantime, Fitzhugh said he was still awaiting the autopsy report, including the cause of death, from the Medical Examiner’s Office in Greenville.

“I do know that the medical examiner, Dr. Gilliland, is out of the office this week, so I’m not expecting any results from the autopsy until at least sometimes next week,” Fitzhugh said.

While all the reports are pending, both suspects remain behind bars.

Jedele, a Kitty Hawk Police Officer now on administrative leave without pay, is charged with first degree kidnapping and is held under a $10 million cash bond. He was transferred last week from the Hertford County Detention Center to Central Prison in Raleigh. Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said that move was “for security purposes.”

Harrell, the ex-wife of Smithwick, remains in the Hertford County Detention Center under a $3 million cash bond. She stands charged with being an accessory after the fact of first degree kidnapping.

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. His abduction prompted a ground and water search of areas in Bertie and Chowan counties by numerous agencies.

His body was found by a North Carolina Wildlife Officer near Edenton on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 9.

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.