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NVDaily

Police: Councilwoman may have known killer

Investigator states in affidavit that there were no signs of robbery, forced entry at residence

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

BERRYVILLE -- Councilwoman Gail Smith may have known her killer and let the person into her home, authorities say in court documents.

Berryville Police Chief Neal White and another officer went to Smith's home at 301 Pickett Court on July 30 to check on her and found the councilwoman lying dead on the hallway floor. An autopsy showed she died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

An affidavit for a search warrant filed Thursday in Clarke County Circuit Court states Smith had been deceased for several days. A firm time of death could not be determined, according to the affidavit, though Smith was last confirmed alive on July 25. The document also states Smith "had suffered a single, small caliber gunshot wound to the temple area."

Smith may have known her assailant, according to the investigator.

"There was no sign of struggle in the residence, no sign of forced entry except for that of the responding police officer, and no indication of robbery," the affidavit states. "Additionally, the circumstances and evidence do not indicate that the wound was self-inflicted."

State police special agent J.A. Defilippi sought the warrant to search a Hewlett-Packard laptop computer found in Smith's home and later kept in the town Police Department's storage room. The warrant was issued in relation to first- and second-degree murder.

"Through training and experience, your affiant knows that the circumstances, such as lack of secondary motive (i.e. robbery), no sign of forced entry, and no sign of struggle, indicate that Smith may have known and allowed the actor in this incident to access the residence," the affidavit states. "As such Smith may have known or dealt with her assailant for a extended period of time or had some sort of relationship with her assailant. Additionally ... your affiant knows that individuals who have had extended contact or relationship with individuals will often communicate with those subjects via various means including e-mail and instant messaging."

Defilippi states such messages may remain in the computer's hard drive and he notes it is known that Smith had e-mail accounts with Google and America Online. He also states as a need to search the computer the fact that evidence of a relationship may be contained in other documents. A boot-up log and user log-in might show who last used the computer and when, the agent states.

Judge John Prosser earlier this week ordered three other search warrants and affidavits temporarily sealed.




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