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Augusta Co. Sheriff Gives Thanks to Everyone Who Helped Solve Cold Case Murders

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Donald Smith Donald Smith
AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Two men who killed their wives are behind bars in Augusta County. These were cold cases, brought to justice by a new law enforcement team.

Donald Smith, the new sheriff of Augusta County, promised the families of Joanne Spencer and Shelby Vatter that he would work to solve their murders.

“The victims’ families that were left to grieve and deal with all this stuff. It meant a lot to me to keep my word,” Smith said.

He immediately assigned a lead person to each case.

“Time was not on our side here. These cases were extremely old.  The evidence was there and the evidence wasn't going to change. It certainly wasn't going to get any better,” Smith said.

Spencer was shot to death in 2003, her body dumped in West Virginia. 

Vatter was poisoned with antifreeze in the spring of 2014. 

But in the last six months, juries convicted both Melvin Spencer and David Vatter of murdering their wives, giving them life sentences.

Smith credits a team of committed investigators who never gave up: Brian Jenkins, Steve Cason, Paul McCormick, Mike Roane; the other half to law and order.

“I've got a new set of eyes looking at everything, but there's one component of this that is new too and that's Tim Martin,” Smith said.

Martin is the newly elected commonwealth's attorney of Augusta County. He says cold cases present a logistical challenge.

“When a case is thirteen or fourteen years old, witnesses memories have faded, some of them have died, a lot of them have moved,” Martin said.

Both Smith and Martin feel justice was served for the victims.

 “I know they're not here. I know they're not with us, but I really believe that they deserved that day,” Martin said.

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