New Details 40 Years After Double Murder
Staunton's most notorious murder case finally led to an arrest one week ago but the whole story has yet to be told. Now we have new details.
Even four decades after the High's Ice Cream shootings, the twin brother of one victim feels raw emotions: grief, loss, resentment and frustration. Now he's among those asking why the murder suspect was free all these years despite being known to police from the beginning.
Moments after a shopper discovered the bodies of Constance Hevener and Carolyn Perry, he placed a frantic call to Staunton police. Then, Sergeant Walter Brown picked up the phone.
Brown remembered, "He was shook. I was shook....Listen, I came out to the scene afterward and I could see the blood that was left there. Random, senseless crimes, that we looked at it, didn't happen in Staunton."
Connie's twin brother got a frantic call of his own, urging him to come to Staunton. Carroll Smootz described arriving at the scene, "Drove by High's Ice Cream Store and I looked off to my left...blue lights and stuff...cops walking all around the place and High's. It just hit me."
Smootz struggled to deal with the thought of life without Connie, whom he called his "little angel." He shared, "When they closed the casket I just felt like...Man, everybody was holding me. I was trying to crawl over the seats. I couldn't let her go. You can't turn off 19 years of loving someone."
Smootz's grief turned to frustration and anger, as the killer eluded Staunton police. He recalled directing much of that anger toward lead investigator David Bocock.
Smootz said, "If that had been your mother, your brother, your sister... Somebody that's laying down there, you'd have been doing more than what you're doing, and you didn't."
He continued, "I'll make the statement and people can like me or lump me, but no...They did a trashy job."
The early investigation did lead to an arrest in the summer of 1967. But that man was acquitted at trial, and no one else was named a suspect.
A former Staunton police officer told us the case was, in his words, "botched." Roy Hartless worked on the High's murders as a Staunton investigator in the 1990's and later as a private detective. He recalled a note in the police file that went overlooked for decades.
"That had a little bit of information pertaining to a gun from an individual that I won't name. And, of her providing information to an investigator at the time, which was Dave Bocock," stated Hartless.
That vital piece of information came from Joyce Bradshaw. Just after the murders, she told investigator Bocock about a chilling conversation with High's employee Diane Crawford.
She said, "We were sitting in the car, and she said 'open up the glove compartment... I want to show you something.' So, I did. And, she said 'I got a bullet in there for my step father and a bullet in there for a girl that lives on Grubert Avenue by the name of Hevener."
Bradshaw says just two days later, Bocock informed her that Diane Crawford was not a suspect. According to Bradshaw, "He told me that she had been cleared. That she passed the polygraph test and she also the bullets don't match her gun."
Bradshaw quietly kept her suspicions until she found Lowell Sheets in June 2008. Sheets had been studying the case since 2001, and had long thought that Hevener and Perry could have been shot by a fellow employee.
"She said this lady worked there. Well, my heart started pounding then. But, good gracious, then she said about the threat...and the gun. And, it was a small pistol in the glove compartment. And, all this just started pouring out... And, my goodness, can all this really be true?" said Sheets.
Hartless stated, "It was almost verbatim with what she told us in recent times in comparison with what she said to the investigator in 1967."
It only took a day or two to find that possible suspect, now known as Sharron Diane Crawford Smith.
An undercover informant working with Sheets gained her confidence, and a month later, got the first confession. Here's what she told him happened that fateful night:
Undercover informant: "'When I went in, first went in the store, Connie was on the phone.
Carolyn was just coming out of the backroom. And, she saw me and she turned, and started back into the backroom, so I followed her.
Once we got into the back room I asked her, 'you know, b****, what's your problem?'
She turned and faced me and said...'You are. I don't want to work with you. I don't like you. I don't want to be around you.'
She lay for a few minutes and she said...I shot her. She went down. Connie came running in and she pushed past me, and knelt down beside her. And, she looked back up at me and asked me... What did I do?
'What did you do?'
She laid and then she said...I shot her."
Sheets and the informant shared all of this with Staunton police in late July but claim it was another month before officers first talked to Smith.
Sheets said, "I would call to where I thought I was a nuisance...'Have you made contact with her? Have you made contact?'"
The undercover informant added, "I wasn't prepared for the resistance that we received as we tried to make this available. Here was the whole case... What else did you need?"
Some members of the victim's families have told us the case should have been wrapped up weeks or even months ago. "I understand how they feel that way. Are their feelings a little bit warranted? I kind of feel like they are," stated Hartless.
Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson said, "I've never heard anybody say that, but if they were... I'd tell them they're nuts. The police have never dragged their feet about this."
Robertson made that assertion December 12, as he and police chief Jim Williams announced that Sharon Diane Smith was charged with two murder counts.
The prosecutor says investigators know the motive, and have physical evidence, but not the murder weapon. So what happened to it?
Joyce Bradshaw, in her final conversation with Smith, asked that same key question. "I said, 'Well, what did you do with the gun?' She said...'I gave it to Davey Bocock."
Remember, Bocock is the same officer who said the suspect had been cleared. "And, I said... Well, what did he do with it? And, she said... 'I don't know,'" said Bradshaw.
Smootz has not had the chance to meet with the woman accused of killing his twin sister four decades ago, but has this message for her.
"I hope she thought about it all these years. I hope it never left her mind like the rest of us have endured it."
Smith faces the prospect of two life sentences, but she may not live long enough to serve them. Although Smith is just 60 years old, we're told she suffers from terminal heart and kidney diseases. Smith will remain in a nursing home until her first court appearance January 7.