NADPS looking for community help in unsolved murder

  • Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:57 p.m.
Photo by Phyllis Britt 
North Augusta Department of Public Safety Director John Thomas speaks about the unsolved murder of Travis Smith.
Photo by Phyllis Britt North Augusta Department of Public Safety Director John Thomas speaks about the unsolved murder of Travis Smith.

There comes a time in some investigations when the only remaining recourse is to once again reach out to the community and ask for help.

North Augusta Department of Public Safety Director John Thomas did just that in a Thursday press conference, as he detailed where the department is with regard to the investigation of the death of Travis Smith.

“I think there’s information out there, but for some reason, people are reluctant to talk to us,” said Thomas, who assured anyone with information about the Sept. 29 shooting death in Ridgeview Manor that the information can be provided anonymously.

The police chief said the department is working with the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Task Force, Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, Aiken Public Safety and Augusta/Richmond County Sheriff’s Department, as well as networking around the state to reach out for information on any avenue available.

He pointed out Public Safety has followed the evidence and has pursued the forensic side of the case as far as either one will taken them.

Smith was shot and killed at around 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 29. According to the incident report, the victim was talking to Bianca Cauthen in the breezeway in front of an apartment when three subjects approached. Cauthen said she immediately ran inside then she heard a gun shot. When police arrived, Smith was unresponsive, sitting on the couch inside the apartment with blood evident on his upper torso.

At the press conference, Thomas indicated the forensics show the gun used was either a .38 caliber or a .357.

He said officers continue to follow every lead. “We’re asking for the community’s help,” reiterated Thomas, who said he didn’t know if people in the neighborhood are intimidated or scared to talk to the police.

Noting they had made the rounds of talking to people in the apartment at the time, as well as the manager of the complex, Thomas said, “We can meet somewhere else, if that’s possible.”

He explained they have looked into crime and gang connections, but have found nothing to explain why two men in hoodies would approach the pair, who were standing in an open area. “We’re trying to establish a motive,” Thomas said. “The victim has no history of crime.”

He noted that, usually, with a homicide, a motive can be determined quickly, “but this one makes you scratch your head,” he added, indicating his frustration.

The Public Safety director said they had looked closely at the young woman who was with Smith, and they have cleared her of involvement.

“We’re still looking for someone to come forward,” he said.

Thomas commented that, of course, NADPS wants to solve every homicide, but sometimes it takes that small break from someone out in the community.

The press conference came two days before a rally to “Stop the Violence,” which will be held at Lions Field on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. Referring to Tyesha Simmons, the rally’s organizer and sister of the slain man, Thomas said, “We certainly support what she’s trying to do.”

He said the department will be in attendance at the rally, and Public Safety spokesman Lt. Tim Thornton will speak briefly. Thomas suggested such a rally allows those concerned to reach out to their community in an effort to have a safer community as well as reaches out to the police to get whatever information is available to help “stop these things from happening.” Simmons has indicated the rally will likewise show support for other families of victims in the community.

Thomas said part of the purpose of such a rally is to “get the word out that the community is fed up with the violence.”

Thomas reiterated that anyone with information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators is eligible for up to a $1,000 reward, and can contact NADPS at 279-2121 or can supply information through CrimeStoppers of the Midlands at (888) CRIME–SC. Callers can remain anonymous.

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