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Update: Authorities determine Big Stone Gap officer killed cousin, self

Mike Still • Sep 6, 2019 at 11:31 PM

JONESVILLE — Lee County Commonwealth’s Attorney Fuller Cridlin has closed the case of a March 10 crash and two shooting deaths as a homicide and suicide.

Cridlin on Friday released his final report in the deaths of Big Stone Gap police officer Bailey S. Smith and Smith’s cousin, Emeri A. Connery.

The two were found by Virginia State Police after reports of a truck crash on U.S. 23 in the Jasper area of Lee County near the Wise County line.

“We conclude — in agreement with VSP investigators, forensic scientists, and medical examiners — that Connery’s death was a homicide caused by Smith, that Smith’s death was a suicide, and that no other individuals or vehicles were involved in the shooting,” Cridlin said in Friday’s statement on the case.

According to Cridlin, Smith and Connery had attended a wedding in Big Stone Gap on March 9 before driving to Johnson City to meet with two of Smith’s friends around 8 p.m. He said that investigators determined that Smith had found his GMC pickup towed from a restricted parking area and had retrieved it before leaving around 1:15 a.m. on March 10, less than an hour before clocks moved forward with the Daylight Saving Time change.

After interviewing witnesses at the Johnson City meeting and reviewing drive-thru video footage from a restaurant in Gray, investigators determined that Smith and Connery were the only occupants of the truck until the crash just over two hours later.

Cridlin said evidence from the truck’s data recorder, the state medical examiner’s report, damage to the vehicle and blood and bullet locations inside the cab indicated that:

— No acceleration or intentional braking occurred before the crash;

— The truck’s windows were closed and there was no damage other than from the crash;

— There were no signs of a struggle inside the truck;

— Smith and Connery were each shot once before the crash;

— Three bullets were fired from Smith’s pistol;

— The location of Smith’s bullet wound and his pistol were consistent with a suicide;

— Connery’s wound was consistent a homicide;

— One bullet struck inside the cab without hitting Smith or Connery.

Blood samples from Smith’s body showed a blood alcohol content as high as twice the Virginia legal level, Cridlin said.

VSP officials in March confirmed that the pistol found with Smith was a personal weapon, not his service weapon.

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