To the best of my knowledge it was a Wednesday, and a little late in the afternoon when I got the call that a body had been found in a home along East Philadelphia Avenue, just past Simpson Elementary. What I remember about getting that phone call is that I was still at my last journalism-related job and I had just put to bed that day’s work and was planning on going home early.
My initial reaction was that it was going to be nothing. More than likely, I figured it would be an unattended death. I had received calls a few times at my last gig and odds were good that was the situation here. Although a bit out of my way, I decided to take the scenic route home and head toward East Philadelphia Avenue, probably before 5 p.m. As I got into view of the area where I planned on just driving past, I knew my thought process was way off base.
Directly in front of me was a road littered with police cars, an ambulance and, if I recall correctly, a large West Virginia State Police vehicle. While I’m no expert on law enforcement, I was able to deduct in a second that this was no unattended death. Unfortunately, as I would find out and members of our Bridgeport Police Department and other law enforcement agencies assisting had already discovered, they were witness to a crime scene. Inside of this home on East Philadelphia Avenue was the murdered body of Kyle Smith.
I talked with several neighbors that month; many so initially frightened by what had taken place that they asked to remain anonymous or not have their comments mentioned at all. Others did talk on the record and, like those who asked to remain anonymous, the same thing was said. Kyle Smith usually minded his own business and was generally polite when talking with neighbors. The words “quiet” and “unassuming” were heard more than once. That, of course, made what had just happened even harder to swallow.
That was six years ago. For many, that remember the murder, it’s probably likely the name of the victim is long forgotten. For likely even more individuals, the murder itself is lost to the history of a filled up memory bank.
To be honest, I had forgotten about it, too, until Bridgeport Police Chief John Walker discussed it at a recent Bridgeport City Council meeting. Upon having my memory refreshed, I went through the files and found out that Walker’s comments to Council came almost six years to the day that the murder took place. With that time frame in mind, I talked with Walker briefly Friday about the murder and, much like his predecessor Jack Clayton who was chief when the crime took place, you could almost feel a muffled tone of frustration in his voice.
For those that serve in law enforcement, particularly in rural settings and serene neighborhoods, having the cloud of something like this hanging around is particularly troubling. Even more troubling, and I’m talking from my hip here and nothing official, is that I believe law enforcement in Bridgeport has had and continues to have a pretty good idea of not only what happened, but the party or parties responsible for the murder.
In the months after the murder took place and for the remainder of the time Clayton was in charge, he said on multiple occasions they had a suspect. Walker reiterated that the same suspect is in the scope of justice to this day. I’m certain nothing would make both men happier than to see this matter go to trial and be done with; and that goes beyond personal relief and into the realm of what’s good for the Bridgeport community.
Unfortunately, both men are bound by the same set of rules. Those rules require getting a conviction based upon the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Because of that, even being certain by law enforcement standards isn’t enough when the hard evidence could leave a “reasonable doubt” loophole.
Call it a gut feeling, but I believe something may soon give in this case. Maybe Chief Walker and his staff have finally pulled the pieces together where they and a prosecutor believes that they can meet easily prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Clayton, Walker and our city’s law enforcement deserve closure. The residents and businesses of Bridgeport deserve final peace of mind. And Kyle Smith deserves justice.
Something tells me that’s going to happen sooner than later.
Editor's Note: You can read a corresponding story relating to the murder case and the ongoing investigation by clicking here.