15 years later family and friends seek justice in murder of Ann Fox Smith
Apr. 28—Now living in Atlanta, Jamie Prentice often goes to Oakland Cemetery to visit her friend's grave.
She hasn't forgotten her friend's murder, and she hopes there will be closure one day.
"It's a hard thing and we miss her," Prentice said. "It's been 15 years and we still don't have answers."
Ann Fox Smith, 47, was killed in the home she was renting on Whitney Drive, and her friends and family have not forgotten about her as police continue work the case.
Smith was a special needs teacher for the hearing impaired at Kennedy Middle School and was also a certified squirrel rehabilitator .
On April 25, 2008, Smith didn't show up for work. Concerned friends called and then went to her home to check on her.
"So I called and got the voicemail and said Ann wake up, time to get to work, you are late, late, late," said Sally Ferriter, one of Ann's friends.
Once Ferriter and other friends arrived at her home, they found her dead.
"I went into the bedroom thinking that she was sick and couldn't get out of bed, no she's dead sprawled out on the floor," Ferriter said. "We were all hysterical, and I called my husband, you got to come over here."
Currently, the case is still open but police don't have any new information or evidence. No one has been arrested or charged in the case.
The newspaper also reported that in court documents filed with probate judges, Smith's husband had not been cleared and was still a suspect.
In 2011, a criminal profiler with SLED said whoever killed Smith said it was personal, the newspaper reported.
"It feels like as a people, we have failed her because she was ripped away from us for 15 years and there is nobody arrested," Prentice said. "I saw what that person did to her and the fact that a person capable of that kind of horror would be out living among people. It makes me angry and it makes me sad."
15 years and no answers
Smith's daughter Lauren Wright was 21 years old and was a junior at the University of South Carolina when her mom was killed.
"It was quite a shocking phone call to receive, not only because it wasn't expected but because it was coming from my little brother and I definitely wasn't expecting that," she said.
Wright said to this day she still can't grasp what happened to her mom and when it gets close to the anniversary of her mom's death she doesn't know how to feel.
"Fifteen years later and I feel like I don't exactly know what happened," she said.
Ferriter said she has an idea of who might have done the crime, but nothing has been proven.
Wright said she hasn't spoke with police in five years and she wants the case to be re-examined or passed to another agency with a cold case unit.
Capt. Marty Sawyer, head of the Aiken Department of Public Safety criminal investigation division, said the case was reviewed by Lt. William Cameron and he has been in touch with the family several times. Sawyer said because of Cameron's recent retirement, the case will be given to another investigator.
Sawyer said the Aiken County Sheriff's Office and SLED have assisted with the case by having investigators from their agencies reviewing it.
Sawyer said when the case was first pursued, the department followed the proper steps.
Prentice said at the beginning she was involved with police in the case, but felt like the case wasn't getting the attention it deserved. She said sometimes it was frustrating.
"In order for this (case) to get solved, someone has to take an interest and have a committed interest in this case," she said
Swayer said there are plans for the department to re-examine the case, but he didn't give specific details.
"Yes, if any new leads come in, this case will be immediately looked at again," Sawyer said in an email. "The investigations captain is required by ADPS policy to review cold cases yearly to see if any new leads are available for follow-up."
Sawyer said the case will remain open until an arrest is made.
Smith's friends and family just want whoever committed the crime to be arrested.
"We don't want this person to be walking around free," Ferriter said. "This person needs to be in a cage where they belong."
Friends haven't forgotten
At Kennedy Middle School, where Smith taught, there is a bench and an award in her name to keep her memory alive . Prentice and others visit her grave.
"I go and visit her very regularly at her grave and I talk to her," Prentice said. "I have coffee with her and have breakfast with her there."
Some days it can be difficult for Prentice, who considered Smith her best friend. She had nightmares about her death until she moved away from Aiken.
Prentice said it's a really tough loss made worse by the fact that there is no resolution in the case.
"It's difficult to accept and live with as someone who really loved her," she said.
Prentice said happy memories are what get her through the hard days.
"Her light of spirit is so bright that it still shines because of the light she was ," she said.
Prentice said the one thing that makes her sad is that Smith didn't get a chance to see her daughter get married or meet her grandchildren.
Prentice said the trauma from that day will always have an impact on her life.
"It's been a lot of years of trauma and grief, she said.
Ferriter said she will also cherish the friendship she had with Smith and how they appeared in the movie, "Who's Your Caddy?," that was filmed in Aiken.
"We became fast friends and for the next 12 years, we did just about everything together," she said.
Jennifer Morlan thinks about her friend all the time. Her favorite memory was when Smith would put PeeWee and Richard, squirrels she rehabilitated, in her bra.
"I am going to visit her bench at Kennedy," she said. "I would walk by her beach every day walking to work."
Morlan said the week of the anniversary of her death is always hard and said she feels like Smith hasn't gotten her justice.
"I still want to get that call on the day that an arrest has been made and there has been a conviction," she said. "I really want that."
Wright has gotten married, moved to Montana and works in the nonprofit sector, but misses that her mom wasn't there to celebrate her accomplishments. Wright said confidence and giving back to the community is one thing her mom passed on to her
She shares some traditions with her children like taking them to Hopelands Gardens.
On the day of the anniversary she spends time volunteering at an assisted living facility to give back.
"What can I do on this day that would be meaningful, impactful and bring a smile to someone else," she said.
She said the last time she saw her mother before her death was Easter Sunday.
"I just remember how happy she seemed and we were surrounded by friends, and it was a happy time together," Wright said.
Wright said she can feel her mother's presence with her all the time.
Wright hopes that her mom's case will be brought back into the public eye, so family and friends can have a sense of peace.
"I think it's important to have closure and justice," she said.
Anyone with information on this case should call the Aiken Department of Public Safety at 803-642-7620 or submit a tip online at crime tip submission.