• 70°

Smithwick murderers accept plea arrangement

WINTON – A scheduled day here Tuesday of pre-trial motions took an unexpected turn.

Raymond Christian Jedele of Kill Devil Hills pled guilty to first degree murder while his accomplice, Janet Denise Harrell of Edenton, entered a plea of second degree murder. They stood charged with the October, 2007 kidnapping and murder of Donald Bradley Smithwick of Ahoskie, but agreed, through their attorneys, to accept plea arrangements.

Their trial had been scheduled for Jan. 10, 2011 in Hertford County Superior Court. There, Jedele was facing capital murder charges, meaning he could have been sentenced to death if convicted.

After accepting the pleas, District 6B Resident Superior Court Judge Cy Grant sentenced Jedele to life in prison without the possibility of parole while Harrell will spend the next 157 months to 198 months behind bars.

Smithwick, then age 33 of Colony Avenue, was kidnapped from his Ahoskie home early in the morning of Oct. 4, 2007 as he left for his job at Nucor of Hertford County. His body was discovered by a North Carolina Wildlife Officer in a wooded area near Edenton on Oct. 9.

It was known at the time of the kidnapping that a taser weapon was used to subdue, bound and kidnap Smithwick. Blood was found in Smithwick’s driveway and in the cab of his pick-up truck (discovered abandoned a few blocks away from his home).

Upon his disappearance, hundreds of law enforcement officers and search and rescue personnel from several different agencies scoured the area of the Eden House Bridge (US 17) spanning the Chowan River between Bertie and Chowan counties. It was on that bridge where Jedele was involved in a vehicle accident shortly past 7 a.m. on Oct. 4.

At the time of the kidnapping and murder, Jedele was employed as a police officer with the town of Kitty Hawk. Harrell was Smithwick’s ex-wife.

It was reported in Hertford County District Court on Oct. 5, 2007 during Jedele’s first appearance (he was originally arrested on kidnapping charges, which changed after Smithwick’s body was found) that Harrell and Smithwick were locked in a custody battle over their two children. Apparently, Smithwick won that battle and, according to several sources, was scheduled to be at the Chowan County Courthouse in Edenton on Oct. 5  to officially sign the custody paperwork. Additionally, it was reported that Harrell and Jedele were friends.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal