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‘Snapped’ profiles Smithwick murder

AHOSKIE – It’s been well over four years since the general public was last updated on a kidnapping and murder case that shook the small town of Ahoskie to its core.

Now, the nation and world are learning of the possible motivation behind the homicide of Donald Bradley (Brad) Smithwick.

The 2015 season of “Snapped” is now airing on the Oxygen Network. One of the 60-minute episodes centers on the Smithwick murder, and the role his ex-wife, Janet Denise Harrell, played in that homicide.

Smithwick, 33 at the time of his death, was kidnapped from his home at around 6 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2007 as he was leaving for his job at Nucor of Hertford County. While the Ahoskie Police were combing for clues at the Smithwick residence and interviewing Smithwick’s wife, his abduction had prompted a ground and water search of areas in Bertie and Chowan counties by numerous agencies.

Smithwick’s body was found by a North Carolina Wildlife Officer near Edenton on the morning of Oct. 9, 2007. An autopsy revealed he had been fatally shot in the head on the day of his abduction.

As the pieces of this murder began to fall together, they pointed to Raymond Christian Jedele of Kill Devil Hills, a police officer in Kitty Hawk at that time.

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). Blood was later discovered in a vehicle driven by Jedele. All blood was a match to Smithwick.

Upon his disappearance, hundreds of law enforcement officers and search and rescue personnel from several different agencies scoured the area of the Eden HouseBridge (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.

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 was changed to a murder charge after Smithwick’s body was found) that Harrell and Smithwick were locked in a custody battle over their two children. Smithwick had won that legal battle and was scheduled to officially sign the custody paperwork the day after his abduction. Additionally, it was reported that Harrell and Jedele were friends.

A shade over three years after Jedele and Harrell were accused of the murder, they each entered a plea arrangement in November of 2010 (their trial had been scheduled for Jan. 10, 2011 in Hertford County Superior Court, where Jedele was facing capital murder charges, meaning he could have been sentenced to death if convicted).

In that plea deal, Jedele admitted guilt to first degree murder and accepted life in prison without the possibility of parole. Harrell entered a plea of second degree murder and was sentenced to an active prison term of 157 months to 198 months.

The “Snapped” episode was shot on location in Ahoskie and Edenton last fall. It includes interviews with local law enforcement and others involved in the case, to include Jedele.

Each episode of “Snapped” (now in its 10th season) profiles the fascinating cases of women accused of murder.

Check your local listings for this particular episode of “Snapped” (the Janet Harrell story).

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.

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