In a report released Friday, Lee County Commonwealth Attorney H. Fuller Cridlin affirmed a previous finding that a Big Stone Gap police officer shot his first cousin to death, then killed himself.
Emeri Connery, 26, of Ohio, and her cousin, officer Bailey Smith, 21, were found dead in a wrecked pickup truck March 10 off U.S. 23 in the Jasper area.
The state medical examiner’s office later confirmed that evidence indicated Smith shot Connery, than himself.
According to Cridlin’s report, Connery and Bailey attended a wedding in Big Stone Gap the previous afternoon.
They then traveled to Johnson City, Tenn. to meet up with two of Smith’s friends, arriving around 8 p.m. The group drank alcohol at two bars.
Connery and Smith left Johnson City around 1:15 a.m., Cridlin reported. They stopped at McDonald’s in Gray, Tenn. around 1:54 a.m.
Smith had a FaceTime conversation with a friend before and during the drive-through. The friend reported that Smith seemed intoxicated, according to the report.
Early on the morning of March 10, Daylight Saving Time went into effect, skewing the timeline forward by one hour.
Shortly before 4 a.m., the vehicle crashed into a culvert off U.S. 23 near the 28-mile mark at Jasper.
An open container of alcohol was found in the vehicle, and Smith’s blood alcohol content was nearly double the legal limit, the report states.
Emergency personnel discovered that both occupants had been shot.
Three shots were fired, according to Cridlin. One struck and killed Connery. The bullet that killed Smith was recovered from the driver’s side door. The third bullet went through the driver’s side seat and was found in the back seat.
Forensic evidence confirmed the previous finding that Smith shot Connery “in a manner consistent with a homicide,” then shot himself, the report states.
“We do not know, and will likely never know, exactly why this incident occurred,” Cridlin wrote. “This is true of many crimes. Accordingly, we cannot reach a definitive conclusion as to whether the homicide was the result of an intentional or reckless act by Smith. The act of handling a loaded firearm while operating a motor vehicle at nearly double the legal limit of intoxication is, at the very least, a reckless act sufficient to support a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Such an act could also rise to the level of gross, wanton, culpable, and showing such a reckless disregard for human life, to support the elevated charge of felony murder.”