2 years later, no answers in Detroiter’s slaying
Two years after Kevin Smith was gunned down on Detroit’s west side, his stunned loved ones still grapple with two questions: who would target him and why?
“I have no clue why this happened or the reason behind it,” said his mother, LaVerne Smith-Rudolph. “Somebody took him senselessly. I can’t make any sense out of it.”
Since the second anniversary of the 31-year-old’s death passed this month without any more answers, loved ones are continuing their quest. They’re spreading the word about a $2,500 reward Crime Stoppers of Michigan is offering for information leading to an arrest.
Though the odds seem stacked against them, those who knew the Weston Technical Academy graduate best hope the efforts finally break the silence and spur someone to come forward.
“Be human and have a conscience,” said Will Jones, a close companion since high school. “You took away somebody’s brother, friend, son, father, grandchild.”
The search for clues began as soon as Smith failed to return the night of April 2, 2016.
The father of two had been on the phone shortly before leaving the home he shared with his fiancée, Catrina Micou, around 9 p.m., investigators reported.
Smith promised to return later for the couple to head to work together, but when she woke up around midnight, he remained gone. Hours later, she learned Smith had been shot to death while sitting in his blue 1998 Jeep Cherokee near Roselawn and the John C. Lodge Service Drive.
Those who reveled in Smith’s rise from arts-loving youth to a skilled professional could hardly fathom the news.
“If someone had told me five years ago that I would lose someone in my life to a murder, I would say, ‘No,’ ,” said his grandmother, Sandra Smith-Anderson. “Maybe an accident or illness, but not for somebody to just come up and snatch his life away from him. He was just a good soul.”
Smith spent most of his years awing others.
Born prematurely on Nov. 29, 1984, he “fought coming into this world,” his grandmother recalls — weighing under 3 pounds and spending weeks hospitalized in an incubator.
As he grew, Smith — known as Kev — demonstrated a host of talents, associates say: drawing, playing basketball, repairing cars. At one point, he studied computer engineering and before his death toiled to refurbish a home.
“He was good at a lot of things,” said Micou, who knew him for more than 20 years. “He just had a gift.”
Smith worked for a cleaning company and hoped to someday launch a business, relatives said. Along with that goal, he harbored another: aspiring rapper.
For several years, the Detroiter performed in battle raps as “Kontraband Kev” and slung verses in gigs associated with Alpha League Entertainment. Videos on the company’s YouTube page show him confidently facing opponents amid cellphone-bearing guests, sometimes eliciting gasps with rapid-fire rhymes. During one encounter, Smith boasted he could “shine simply… because God sent me.”
“He was a bright and shining star on his way to live his dream,” said Jones, who rapped with Smith, named a son after him and has a commemorative tattoo honoring his memory. “He was talented.”
Knowing Smith easily maintained a wide social circle and rarely faced trouble, relatives can’t imagine why someone could target him. “He wasn’t a street guy,” his mother said. “He wasn’t that type of guy. He worked and took care of his family.”
When authorities found Smith after the shooting, they reported his money appeared to be taken, Smith-Rudolph said.
Some loved ones wonder if the slaying stemmed from a random robbery or a darker connection. “I just pray to God it’s not someone that we know very well that’s in our company and know they did it or know who did it and is just not telling us,” Smith-Anderson said.
Detroit police have not identified a suspect and are continuing to investigate, Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said. “It’s still open and active. We’re just asking the public if they have any information pertaining to the crime to give us a call.”
Crime Stoppers asks the same. So far, credible tips have not trickled in — possibly due to mistrusting the group’s guarantee to keep informants anonymous, media and family relations specialist Dindi Maloney said. “You do not have to ever give a name, anything. You’re not going to lose anything by giving a call to help these families out.”
That’s why Smith-Rudolph and relatives planned to brave unseasonable cold Saturday distributing posters near the shooting scene to spark tips.
“I don’t want it to be forgotten,” she said. “Closure is not going to bring him back, but something will help us to at least know why this happened.”
Helping those in similar situations also anchors a weekend event Crime Stoppers is sponsoring. To commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the Detroit Crime Victims Action Team, which includes law enforcement personnel, has organized a walk and gathering Sunday at Clark Park on the city’s southwest side.
Highlights include stories of arrests and prosecutions, perspective from survivors and a balloon release to honor victims, said Bishop James Williams, a faith-based program manager with Crime Stoppers on the action team. “It brings attention to victims and says: ‘We want to help you move on to being victorious.’ It’s important that we put faces on these numbers and help our community to remember that these are people just like your family.”
Anyone with information can anonymously leave a tip through Crime Stoppers at 1-800 SPEAK-UP, going to www.1800speakup.org or texting CSM and details to 274637.